How to make your startup inclusive from the start - Philly


Oct. 12, 2018 12:18 pm

How to make your startup inclusive from the start

Wharton professor Stephanie Creary says one strategy can help foster diversity even in the earliest days of a company.

Professor Stephanie Creary delivers a keynote speech at the University of Pennsylvania.

(Photo by Roberto Torres)

In an age where even massive companies with sizable HR departments grapple with toxic workplace culture, what’s left for smaller startups, frequently staffed by small teams of people who all wear multiple hats?

Ask Wharton School professor Stephanie Creary, a former Cornell University scholar who focuses on identity and diversity, and she’ll say the move that has proven to be most effective is appointing a dedicated human resources head, no matter how early.

“We know that employee experience is predicated upon having policies and practices that allow people to contribute to organizations,” Creary said. “[Founders] need to hire an HR or diversity officer to put policies and processes in place.”

Creary gave these remarks Tuesday evening, at a keynote speech before the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists, which — on its 50th Anniversary — brought together 50 journalists from over 20 outlets in four countries for a half-week of lectures and training from Wharton professors.

Creary, who has studied diversity and inclusion initiatives at global organizations, said smaller companies need to incorporate an HR figure into their structure. But what if they can’t afford a full-time HR staffer?

“Then they need to put someone on their board who cares about HR,” Creary said. “Where they’re all messing up is that they don’t care abut the process and all this drama is entering because there are no checks and balances on who they’re hiring and how people treat one another.”


Tap a labor lawyer, Creary suggests, to take a position on the board and be the guiding voice to help staffers abide by policies and legislation when it comes to diversity.

“That’s why they’re getting in trouble, because they’re going unchecked,” Creary said. “And they went unchecked for so long.

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