What are Diversity Councils?


Diversity in the modern, globalized working world is the norm. Today, more and more companies are trying to find ways to diversify their employee bases to better represent the general population. After all, a diverse talent pool leads to more dynamic and creative teams that can better connect with partners and clientele. To create and support more diverse employee bases, many large organizations are creating diversity councils.

The activities of diversity councils vary by organization. For example, many diversity councils seek to provide advice to senior management on issues related to diversity and inclusion. This could mean:

  • Pushing for the establishment of procedures, practices and activities to assure compliance with the organization’s diversity policies
  • Providing input on the development and implementation of diversity management initiatives
  • Working to improve understanding of cultural characteristics and differences within the workplace
  • Performing organizational assessments
  • Serving as a change agent to improve the organizational culture
  • Supporting leadership development in the area of diversity management, and conflict prevention and resolution
  • Ensuring that diversity is considered in strategic management initiatives

Leading organizations increasingly see business value – and results – from their efforts to link diversity and inclusion to their business strategy. For example, a quarter of the top 25 US companies recognized for their diversity councils have appeared on the annual World’s Most Admired Companies list. These organizations make executive support for diversity and inclusion a priority. Indeed, organizations that rank highest on diversity and inclusion classifications almost always have diversity councils made up of top leaders from various business units.

As organizational leaders first work toward creating a diversity council, they may wonder where to start. A good first step is to write up a charter or mission statement that includes a definition of membership, as well as the meeting frequency of the council. Other important components of a diversity council’s setup include creating a strategic communication plan that reports progress and broadcasts diversity messages via multiple media, as well as building a structure that reflects the culture of the organization.

As far as those on the council, the organizers must seek to recruit members who represent a cross-section of the organization by forging links to other major company functions such as HR, communications, and training and development.

Throughout the work of the diversity council, organizers may want to consider how the council will drive leadership accountability. Many companies put bonus compensation at risk for executives not hitting their diversity targets. After the launch, organizers need to sustain the momentum and work of the diversity council, including monitoring for slippage or dormancy. Restructuring or renewal of the mission statement might be necessary at some point.

As the working world becomes more diverse, organizations need to ensure that their employee pool is representative of the general population so that it can better serve partners and clients. Diversity councils help organizations reach their diversity and inclusion goals, leading to more successful, dynamic and productive teams.