How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in Your Shop
As a screen-printing shop owner who’s a woman of color, I believe that the decorated-apparel space can do a better job of promoting diversity and inclusion within our industry at all levels: in management and on staff in individual companies, in advertising, on social media, behind trade show booths and educating at shows.
For example, do you actively promote a culture of equality and diversity in your workplace? Do you have policies that support all employees and an open-door attitude that allows people to freely talk about issues? Or do you feature people of different ethnicities, genders and ages on your website, ads, and social media?
Here are ways you can best implement diversity strategies in your workplace, as we’ve done at Midnight Supply Company.
Promote a diversity-minded shop culture.
That will look different at every shop, but for example, make it a goal to grow a diverse team. You can thoughtfully hire women and minority candidates into positions and give them the opportunity to grow and move up into senior roles. Diversity and inclusion in your shop always starts from the top, so ensure that your managers are on board. They’re the ones responsible for making employees feel comfortable having open conversations related to these issues.
Create more inclusive workplace policies
While many shops may not be able to offer a whole range of benefits, providing paid leave for either parent who welcomes a child levels the playing field for everyone. This is one way that we’ve implemented an equality policy at Midnight Supply Co.
Be respectful and patient
Some shops have a larger number of employees whose second language is English, and speak at different proficiency levels. If that’s the case in your shop, hire bilingual managers who can help bridge language barriers and make sure that everyone fully understands what’s happening, both day to day and at the policy level.
Make the time for diversity training.
We’ve found that these sessions are very effective because they help people see perspectives other than their own—and have difficult conversations they might not have had before. Our shop is small, but this year we established a Diversity and Inclusion Committee that includes two of our screen printers. No matter your shop’s size, you can appoint a staff member as your Diversity Director, in addition to their regular role—most likely, they’ll embrace the opportunity and run with it.
Make the time for community events.
When were we in the middle of our largest order during the pandemic, George Floyd was killed. We decided to stop right then and there, and print a bunch of Floyd T-shirts and hoodies. We went out to march and we handed out these awareness garments for free. We also paid everyone for the full day.
By paying attention to the larger issues happening outside your shop, you can get your team involved in diversity and inclusion causes that are important to them.
Plus, when you hold open town hall meetings in your shop, it’s a chance for people to dialogue together in a safe space about equality and diversity issues you’re facing together.
Tell customers that you’re a woman- or minority-owned business.
In 2020 especially, people want to support businesses headed up by women and other minority groups. If that’s your shop, don’t be afraid to get more visible on your social media accounts and in your community. Talk about what makes your shop stand out in your advertising. Volunteer to educate at trade shows, whether virtually or in person. Guest blog for industry magazines. By doing this, you’ll likely also attract more diverse job candidates when you post jobs.
Ultimately, representation within our industry is the biggest issue for us to address right now. We want people to see themselves being hired into roles that they never thought possible before. For me, just having the opportunity to be that face for someone else is really important to me—and I’m hoping that more shop owners will make diversity and inclusion a priority
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