My experience in the product design team at Weight Watchers ended last week. I left the company to embark on a new adventure at MullenLowe Profero. During my time at WW, one of the things that impressed me the most was the diversity in the product design team. For example, women in the design team at WW make 65% of the team, and their last names only underscore the melting pot of cultures and ethnic backgrounds that exist in this country. While diversity in the creative industry has made some inroads, there’s definitely still room for growth. As a Latino immigrant, I was happy to be part of a team that recognized the value of diversity and, in turn, benefitted from the various opinions, talents and experiences of its members.
Initiating the process at work
A diverse team not only drives innovation, but also has a direct impact on the bottom line of a business. There are studies that show how diversity increases the ROI 35% in ethnically diverse companies and 15% in gender diverse companies. With that knowledge managers are integral in influencing change and creating organizations that are more diverse.
How can managers help facilitate this shift? These are a couple of things that could help:
- Understanding our actions. Around the country, more and more companies are embracing the movement to have more women in boardrooms and at top executive roles, but at the same time, there are changes that can start and should start with managers. The first step to take is to understand the way we make decisions and the conscious and subconscious factors that may influence one’s decision to hire one candidate over another. It’s no secret that there are pre-conceived ideas about male and female roles, and these may lead to biases and benevolent sexism. These attitudes can end up affecting women or other minorities by being potential roadblocks in their professional growth. But this can change if managers take the first step in recognizing these types of attitudes and shift their thinking regarding what qualities a leader should have. Once managers see that the characteristics of a leader are simply human traits shared by men and women, then it should be easier for them to break gender stereotypes, sexism, and cultural misconceptions.
- The next step is to be advocates and not just managers. Great managers listen and are willing to understand the challenges the team faces, especially if there are underrepresented minorities. Managers can speak for them and influence others. Having a seat at the table where decisions are made, can go a long way for those who don’t have a voice and need it.
- And lastly, set you diverse team up for success by sharing knowledge. It’s been said that sharing knowledge is vital for innovation, organizational learning, and the development of new skills and capabilities — all of which can directly impact a team. One of the things that struck me at Weight Watchers is how managers work hand in hand with their team. There are daily stand ups to review work and bi-weekly 1–1s to ensure a clear path of communication. The doors are always open to talk with the managers and every time someone gives an opinion it is considered and respected. Feedback is given in a constructive manner and the final decision is left to the designer or designers leading the project.
The product design team at Weight Watchers is a great example of how diversity creates a better work environment, promotes innovation and creativity, and empowers women and other minorities to lead. To see other minorities represented in a team (and organization) that has so much influence on so many lives is very rewarding. As a result of these diverse perspectives, they are able to develop a better product, one that they can feel proud of.
Thanks to my work at Weight Watchers, my mission has expanded to encourage diversity at the workplace and to recognize that my role as a manager will only make an impact if I make change happen. And as I continue to develop products that touch people’s lives, it’s reassuring to know that by improving my craft I am influencing others like me to be better, and maybe inspire them with my work. As I embark on this next chapter of my professional growth, now as a manager myself, it’s time to put these words into actions.