A Harvard Business Review study found that only 35% of employees surveyed felt consistently comfortable contributing in meetings. In meetings of five to ten people, that’s only two to three people who feel empowered to contribute. Historically, three segments of the workforce are routinely overlooked: introverts, remote workers, and women. Additional studies show that even when they do speak up, women are far more likely to be interrupted in meetings, have their ideas taken less seriously, and even co-opted by other teammates. It’s likely that leaders aren’t actively silencing these voices, but rather there are hidden biases at play.
Setting a diverse workforce up for success requires a commitment to the practices of inclusion, and leading or participating in an inclusive meeting is a skill that everyone has to develop and refine. Additionally, as most meetings are now being conducted virtually, employees may need to relearn or adapt new inclusive practices. Explicitly defining inclusivity and being clear and transparent about what it looks like in meetings will help everyone.
Consider our advice below on how to ensure that before, during, and after the meeting, your policy and practices are as inclusive as possible…
Prior to the Meeting
- Only invite those who absolutely need to be there, while ensuring the invitees represent diverse perspectives, experiences, and knowledge.
- Agendas should be detailed with clear objectives, and identify the format, roles, and timeframe of the meeting. Share the agenda and relevant materials at least 24 hours in advance so participants can prepare for the meeting and if they would like, share their thoughts ahead of time.
- Name the meeting facilitator (and consider rotating the facilitator for reoccurring meetings). Assign other roles, as appropriate, such as a co-host to stand in in case of technical issues, a coordinator to take notes, and allies to hold people accountable and encourage inclusiveness.