5 Ideas for Team Leaders to Support Diversity and Inclusion

Table of Contents
May 2023
Interested in learning how to incorporate diversity and inclusion as you lead your team? Bring your questions to the May 17 webinar led by Joanne Kamens, “Creating a More Inclusive Science Workplace - Action Steps for Organizations, Managers and Individuals.” Register today!

By Joanne Kamens, Ph.D.

Diversifying the STEM workforce requires action by organizational leaders and dedicated resources. It also requires contributions from every one of us to promote equitable and inclusive culture that will transform our workplaces. Team leaders, in particular, play a crucial role in creating company culture.

Whether you find yourself within an organization that supports and encourages this work or whether you wish to ensure that your team operates with inclusive practices without such support, there are many ways managers or team leaders can act to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within their groups. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Participation in recruiting and hiring
Large organizations may have required recruiting processes in place, but any manager can learn and practice best practices when hiring. Rewrite your job descriptions through a DEI lens. Focus on real job requirements and be intentional with your language. Suggest places to post job descriptions that increase diverse candidate introductions such as the Scismic.com job board. Train with your team on how to unbias the interview process.

Promote a mentoring culture
One of my favorite ways is to host interns and apprentices with attention to inclusive hiring for these roles. Local community colleges, universities and STEM inclusion organizations often have high school, college and/or grad school level interns looking for real world experience. Interns enrich your culture and can eventually become vetted, full-time contributors. As an added bonus, an always-mentoring culture is motivating for all employees and great for communication, advancement and career development across the team.

Require inclusive meeting practices
So much of our communication happens in meetings so your team’s meeting rules and practices play a very large part in a team members’ experiences of feeling included. Diversity is not only about social identity (although we know that people with marginalized identities often have issues with being heard), but people also have diverse communication styles. By instituting some meeting best practices, you can ensure that everyone is heard regardless of their identity or style. As a bonus you may hear ideas and input that you would have missed if those team members didn’t have a way to speak up. Some examples of these practices are: a communal agenda formed in time to be reviewed the day before the meeting and a practice of asking everyone to give input in a “round robin” fashion.

Shake up your work teams
Provide opportunities for diverse team members to work closely together. It’s been shown that inherent biases and behaviors are reduced when people work together with a common goal and contribute equally via a meaningful interaction. By assigning projects to small groups and celebrating their accomplishments you encourage this sort of natural shift in unconscious attitudes. As a bonus, working with different teams is an impactful professional development tactic.

Learn together
No one says that the larger organization has to dictate or spearhead what you learn about together. There are abundant, free resources for learning about issues and solutions in diversity, equity, and inclusion available online. Starting an article or book club. Rotate who delivers a 10-minute DEI learning moment in your team meetings. Invite a speaker to facilitate learning and dialogue.

Change and learning do not happen overnight. However, by doing a little bit, regularly, you can inspire big shifts. Feel free to reach out to me for more detail on any of these tactics! 


Joanne Kamens is a Scientist and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Organizational Consultant. She received her Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard Medical School and has had a varied career in academia, pharma, biotech and nonprofit. She is currently a Senior Consultant at Diversity North Group, a consultancy practice which brings science-based DEI knowledge to help organizations develop and maintain equitable and inclusive cultures that are rich in diversity. Joanne founded the Boston chapter of the Association for Women in Science. While Executive Director of Addgene for a decade, she experimented with practical ways to create an inclusive workplace with every employee able to thrive and contribute. Joanne maintained single digit employee turnover for almost a decade at Addgene and collaborated with dozens of inclusion organizations to make the company a Best Place to Work in Boston for 6 years running (#1 Best Place in 2016). She speaks widely and serves on a number of boards including the National AWIS Board of Directors, the OpenBiome Board of Directors, and as an advisor to Scismic, a job matching site for life scientists. Joanne is active in creating and supporting group mentoring programs and has been nominated for the Presidential Medal of Honor in STEM Mentoring. You can reach out to her via
@jkamens on Twitter or on LinkedIn