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The Importance of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Product Management

Updated: Sep 17, 2023


ronke pm article

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Diversity is ineludible, inevitable, and ineluctable. It is necessary for our advancement. Inclusion requires effort and sometimes needs implementation and execution in instances where there is none. Belonging is the outcome of diversity and inclusion.


As product leaders, we have the incredible requirement to build products that will shape and alter society for the better. The question at hand is, are we building for everyone?


What makes a great product? It has utility, functionality, efficacy, convenience, and captivation from its target audience. Most significantly, the product serves a purpose: it taps into our emotions; we are happy when we use it and feel good. There's a sense of achievement. As an outcome, any product that embodies these attributes will bring in revenue. Most notably, it will have a customer fan base loyal to the product but to the management because the consumer has faith that they are building for them. That the individuals that work in that company understand their ever-growing needs.


Empathy for our customers is a considerable measure of the recipe for creating and developing products that include these characteristics and qualities. Additionally, we must employ innovation, imagination, and creativity. Finally, to have cross-functional teams that can think big and build products that we may have once deemed impossible or that will change our communities and impact humanity. Finally, we must foster, promote, inspire, strengthen, and cultivate an environment that drives, embraces, and bolsters diversity, and neurodiversity as part of its culture and character.


When teams and organizations make diversity, inclusion, and belonging part of their ethos and core values, they produce products with strong client adoption that increase revenue growth and become industry disruptors.


What is diversity, inclusion, and belonging?

You can always tell when an establishment is diverse because the leaders from the top down are empathetic, responsive, and supportive of their teams. These leaders nurture values that inspire employees to have empathy, flourish, and support each other. As a result, employees see themselves when they walk into a room and always have a seat at the table.


Inclusion signifies that employees can use their leadership voice to raise awareness and increase understanding of how customers would use their product or services and the reasons behind using it a certain way. Being inclusive also opens the door to further defining the company culture so that the employees continue to thrive.


Belonging ensures that these employees are heard, validated, and seen. They feel welcome to bring their authentic selves to the table and can share their perspectives without fear of judgment. They feel like they are a part of the team and company and are contributing to their development, so everyone can continue to have a seat at the table.


Diversity, inclusion & belonging is product management

As product leaders, we have the incredible privilege and responsibility of shaping the products that all communities will use for years to come. Without diversity, inclusion, and belonging in our teams, diverse perspectives, and the addition of those different from us, our products would not have the same reach they would if they were created with everybody in mind.


To bring a product to market with actual customer value, there have to be people from various settings, genders, circumstances, lived experiences, and perspectives with thoughtful fortitude within an atmosphere that fosters diversity, inclusion, and, most notably, belonging.


This is how we meet our customers where they are. Our customers represent an ever-changing demographic with evolving needs, and to perceive their needs, even the ones they have yet to verbalize or know they need, we must have people on our teams who represent them. Again, this is regardless of whether we work on B2B, B2C, or B2D products.


Let’s dive into what this means for product management.


Global diversity upsurge

Many studies have confirmed that the world's population will continue to increase. As a result, the demographics will continue to change, and their needs will influence, transform, and impact the growth rate of economies worldwide. To fulfill the needs of these ever-changing demographics, we need innovation, advancement, and in some cases, modernization.


We must employ outside-the-box and unconventional thinking to meet the demands of these emerging global markets and their population tally; we must use outside-the-box and unconventional thinking. This will bring innovation to the market and require a unique value proposition, demonstration of empathy, and a human-centered approach. To meet these needs, we need people that live those experiences. This is what will drive revenue in the years to come.


Intentional hiring of diverse team members

Hiring, retaining, and promoting individuals from marginalized communities provides management and their teams an opportunity to truly define, discover, and bring to market a product experience that has true customer value. This is because the diverse people on the team look like their customers and recognize their current and foreseeable needs.


Embracing neurodiversity

Part of genuinely embracing diversity, inclusion, and belonging is producing and fostering an environment that supports neurodiversity. Neurodiversity calls attention to accepting and welcoming persons who march to the beat of a different drum; possess distinct brilliance, mental acuity, ingenuity, and mental processes. Our colleagues with these abilities are competent, add value, and enhance their teams and organization.


As product leaders, it is imperative that we engage and encourage the participation of these individuals and safeguard they are part of discussions and the decision-making processes. Furthermore, we must help them by ascertaining their professional and personal ambitions and ensuring they are seen, heard, and validated. We need their innovative concepts as they represent a segment of our customer base that deserves to be heard.


Implementation of inverse mentoring

There are numerous methods ahead when we seek to develop and strengthen empathy, awareness, support, and diversity within our teams. One is the concept of “inverse mentorship.” This emphasizes senior members and leaders getting paired with employees from marginalized communities that come from diverse backgrounds to strengthen relationships and give sight to their lived experiences within the organization, like if they feel included, listened to, or feel they belong. Furthermore, it’s a chance and opening for leadership and senior leaders to learn and implement changes to build strong values and principles.


Final thoughts

It’s well known that we must recruit, retain, and promote diverse cross-functional teams to achieve, deliver, and elicit outcomes for our customers. These teams tend to be more impregnable, and they function well. In addition, this type of environment promotes a safe setting where team members can be their genuine selves and be comfortable innovating. However, for organizations to deliver outstanding outcomes, diversity, inclusion, and belonging must be at their core value.


As product leaders, to build inclusive products and embody all communities we serve, we must ensure that our companies and multi-disciplinary teams internally have diverse people with distinct perspectives and viewpoints that represent actual market segments. These teams produce and develop solutions to solve customer problems, increasing revenue for our respective companies. Even more important is that our customers know that we prioritize inclusion and genuinely care about their needs rather than just producing products for profit.


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