How to Build a Diverse and Inclusive Culture

We’ve discussed many gender disparity issues in the workplace ever since Lead Read Today first launched. From gender stereotypes to employment discrimination;  examining the dim reality of female career success to calling for more female leaders and more.

When it comes to solutions to these issues, the authors encouraged our readers to be more supportive of minority leaders; they urged those in power to see the great leadership exhibited by female leaders and have wanted professionals of all backgrounds to play a role in combatting workplace discrimination.

However, these messages are not without their limitations.

Without the support of the culture and organization’s operating system, it is hard for female leaders to succeed in their positions, even though they are promoted. For example, like the term “glass cliff” depicts, senior female or minority leaders are promoted only as a token of great change when the organization is in an developing state to create the illusion of an open-minded position but does little to help them actually succeed.[i]

To continue shrinking the gender gap in the workplace, organizations should not only focus on creating female-oriented training programs or helping females accelerate in their career development; it is also crucial to build a work culture where all talents are supported — regardless of gender, orientation, race, background or other differences.

How do we create a diverse and inclusive culture?

Like all changes in the workplace, changing a culture is especially hard when the way people used to think and behave will be fundamentally altered.

Therefore, the first step to start raising awareness (instead of tearing down the current culture), building understanding (instead of focusing on the differences) and encouraging reflection (instead of directly and forcefully changing behaviors). Many may think that if you change people’s behaviors, their attitude changes will come naturally.


In reality, if people’s values and attitudes don’t change first, the change you see are only temporary and can quickly reverse.

Secondly, leadership can start to form specific visions for the organization’s future that can reveal these ideal changes. The visions can then be clearly communicated to its members via all channels.

Unfortunately, many organizations stopped their culture change at the beginning of step two. Many email memos and public speeches later, the organization is still its old self and very little real change has happened.

Because without concrete action plans, no matter how motivating or inspiring the new vision is, it’s only empty promises.

To really promote culture change, especially when it comes to building a diverse and inclusive culture, management’s leadership practices need to change as well. These changes can be as small as how meetings are held (e.g., from let a few dominate a meeting to one where everyone can voice their opinions while feeling welcomed and respected)[ii] and as big as leadership practices (e.g., requiring leaders to use leadership styles that help challenge old assumptions and open to new ideas) and adjusting the organization’s  human resources system (e.g., how people are hired, developed, evaluated and promoted).[iii]  

We will break down these practices in the future and show you what they look like and how they can be installed in place.

Stay tuned.

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[i] Ryan, M. K., Haslam, S. A., Morgenroth, T., Rink, F., Stoker, J., & Peters, K. (2016). Getting on top of the glass cliff: Reviewing a decade of evidence, explanations, and impact. The Leadership Quarterly, 27, 446-455.

[ii] Heath, K., & Wensil, B.F. (2019). To build an inclusive culture, start with inclusive meetings. Harvard Business Review, 6.

[iii] Pless, N., & Maak, T. (2004). Building an inclusive diversity culture: Principles, processes and practice. Journal of business ethics, 54, 129-147.


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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.