Inclusion doesn’t happen in one giant leap.

Instead, it’s a journey of small steps, all of which add up to make people feel comfortable enough to be themselves at work.

Executive Brief

  • Even seemingly “small” changes can say a lot to employees.
  • Things like sharing pronouns, publishing numbers and diversifying images can help.
  • “We see that companies who do good stuff inspire other companies,” one expert says.

  • “Focus on the first steps you can do,” says Max Masure, cofounder of Argo Collective, a group created to train workplaces on gender and inclusion. “When you try to change habits, you have to do small things that feel doable. You think ‘I can add pronouns.’ Then you think ‘I can do more and more over time.’ That’s the rain drop that is going to become a huge, new ocean.”

    Here are some small steps to make a workplace feel more welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

    Diversify your images

    Even something as seemingly small as an image on a company website can say a lot to employees.

    Within the office, portraits of white male CEOs may line the halls. Or, on the website, photos may only show workers who fit a certain type.

    These images surround employees, sending silent messages about who is valued at the company and who isn’t.

    “It sounds obvious, but we hadn’t been as intentional on our website and on our hiring website,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman says. “Does that look like an inclusive group of people where someone who’s thinking about applying could see someone who looks like them? That turns out to make a big difference.”

    Ask these same questions about the company’s social media use, says Lacey McLaughlin, CEO and cofounder of Flerish, a leadership development tool. The images and messages don’t only affect followers and potential customers; they also send a signal to employees and job candidates.

    “Does everyone look the same?” McLaughlin says. “Are we engaging in the types of activities that we see people doing out in the community? Are they diverse? If they’re not diverse, what message is that sending?”

    Publish your numbers

    Being transparent about the process toward inclusion — both where the company is and where it’s going — keeps employees in the loop.

    When Etsy published its most recent diversity and inclusion stats in August, the report also noted how those numbers changed since the previous year.

    Making numbers like this public creates accountability, both within the company itself and also in the competitive field.

    “Progress is baby steps,” Masure says. “We see that companies who do good stuff inspire other companies.”

    Share your pronouns

    Masure recommends a very simple change, one that means a lot to members of the LGBTQ community: normalize pronoun usage for everyone, not just those who use “they” and “them.”

    Add pronouns to email signatures. Ask for them in meetings. Update the “team” or “people” sections of the company website to include preferred pronouns alongside names and bios.

    “That sends a huge signal that the company cares about inclusion,” Masure says. “It sends a big, big flag that something good is happening.”

    Show up

    Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is show up. When recruiting new talent, company leaders should reach outside their own networks to find people from other backgrounds. Dedicate time to researching which job fairs to attend and which employees to send.

    “You’re going out to a college recruiting event or you have an opportunity for a marketing and branding event — who is representing your organization?” McLaughlin says. “Who are you putting on stage? How does that align with what you’re trying to do?”

    Silverman says Etsy recruiters make a point to visit historically black colleges and universities.

    “People appreciate the effort, the fact that we’re making an investment in getting ourselves out there,” he says. “It makes a difference.”