Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

A quick how-to guide for starting a diversity council

Are you interested in starting a diversity council at your organization? Creating this type of group at your business can be challenging for companies, but with the right step-by-step process, your employees can start advocating for all team members.

What Is a Diversity Council?

A diversity council is a group of employees that get together, discuss issues, and propose solutions around workplace diversity.

These council members cover a wide range of issues across gender, race, disability, socioeconomic status, and so much more.

The members strive to be a voice for all different sorts of employees. Diversity councils need to be taken seriously because of that.

Tips for Starting Your Organization’s Diversity Council

Now that we know what a diversity council is, let’s talk about what your team needs to do to start a committee like this.

1. Understand Where Your Diversity Currently Stands

Before you start a council, you’ll want to get a good understanding of where your company’s diversity currently stands. This will help you set goals as a leadership team and understand the people you need to advocate for.

You can create an anonymous survey for your employees to get a good understanding of their background or demographics. Demographics surveys don’t have to contain personal information because the purpose of these surveys is to gather information about the state of your workplace.

Here are some demographic qualities you might want to learn more about:

  • Age
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Job Level
  • Kids/No Kids
  • Time Zone/State/Country
  • Education
  • Marital Status

2. Create Goals Around Diversity at Work

Once you have a clearer picture of where your diversity currently stands, you can start to create goals around how you’d like to see diversity at your company evolve.

Maybe you’d like to see a certain percentage of leadership positions filled by underrepresented groups. Or you might want to diversify where you find hires to increase candidate diversity.

Pick some goals you’d like to see addressed by the council over the next several years.

3. Share Your Wish to Create a Diversity Council and Seek Participants

After you’ve done some preliminary work, it’s time to get employees involved. Reach out to all your employees for inclusion in the diversity council.

Employees from majority groups in your organization might want to become better allies and participate in the council’s efforts. These employees can be connectors and help the council’s mission extend beyond the meetings held.

You’ll want to get employees and outside experts on the council. Work with a wide variety of people to ensure that this council can effectively tackle your company’s diversity initiatives.

Work with council members to select the best leaders for the council group during its early stages.

4. Make Sure Employees Are Kept in the Loop as You Make a Decision

As you make these critical decisions that impact employees, it’s important to keep them in the loop. For example, you could let employees know:

  • What you are looking for in diversity council members.
  • The makeup of your diversity council when it comes to employees vs. outside experts.
  • When a final council decision will be made and how you’ll let the team know.

Getting a committee like this is probably a welcome change for employees. Your team members just want to be kept in the loop so they know what’s happening.

5. Further Define Diversity Council Goals With Your Members

Once you have your members in place, it’s time to sit down with them to further define the diversity council’s goals. You can share some of the plans you came up with as a leadership team, but council members should have the final say in what they want to tackle.

Give your council members access to the goals you’ve set as an organization, and ask them to brainstorm on what they think the council should be tackling. Then, during the meeting, you can hear from multiple council members. Let members start to define their focus as a council.

6. Get an Executive Sponsor for Your Diversity Council

Once you have a group of council members in place, you’ll also want to secure an executive sponsor for your group. Having an executive sponsor for your diversity council will help your group get more traction with senior-level executives in your organization.

The truth is simple. Company leaders might not be willing to give up power or even discuss items with your diversity council long-term. Part of starting a diversity council is making sure that it has every opportunity to succeed. Executive sponsors help make sure that happens.

7. Encourage Diversity Council Members to Create Their Own Rules

Before you let your council run on their own, you’ll probably want to spend a bit of time helping the diversity council members draft the rules around being on the panel. Your council members might want to develop regulations around:

  • Council terms and term limits: Is this appointment made yearly, every two years, or every three years? How many terms can be served?
  • Early termination: Is there any reason an employee or outside member might be terminated early, like breaking confidentiality or posting something racist, sexist, ageist, etc., on social media?
  • Deciding on initiatives: How does your council determine what project to tackle next? It’s essential to have an understanding of this before you finish your first initiative.

8. Maintain a Successful Diversity Council

With all of these policies, procedures, goals, and council members in place, you are well on your way to a fantastic diversity council experience.

From here, it’s time to let your diversity council run on its own. You can undoubtedly request regular meetings with council leaders, but it’s up to them to run the show daily.

How Does a Diversity Council Work With Employee Resource Groups?

One question we want to address is the difference between a council and employee resource group.

Councils work because they are small enough to have intimate conversations and make great recommendations. Employee resource groups work because they make various underrepresented groups at your company feel appreciated and not so alone. ERGs can have thousands of members, but that won’t work for a council.

You can certainly invite ERG leaders to be on your diversity council. In fact, this would be wise because these leaders have a lot of knowledge to transfer around what employees want from the company.

Conclusion: Starting a Diversity Council as an Organization

With all of these steps covered, you’re well-positioned to launch a thriving diversity council. We hope this article gave you some food for thought and a roadmap to creating your organization’s diversity council.

Are you ready to start planning a great diversity council? Consider using a tool like Workrowd to host groups and councils like your diversity council. Email us at to see if we’d be suitable for your organization’s needs.

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