Research has shown that a more inclusive workplace can boost innovation, productivity, collaboration and problem-solving. It can also lead to a healthier culture that supports recruitment and retention efforts.
While businesses look for ways to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts, many overlook a key tool that could support this goal.
"It's important for companies to use diverse, inclusive photos on their websites," said Craig Leen, former director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and an attorney at law firm K&L Gates in Washington, D.C. "This is not only key from an equal-opportunity perspective but also from a competitive, market perspective."
Companies typically use website imagery to promote their brand, including photos of their workforces or even stock images that reflect how each organization perceives itself. Homepage imagery can speak to an organization's opinions, allegiances and customer base.
Using website photos that highlight workforce diversity is one way for companies to advocate DE&I.
"Inclusive imagery is the invitation of acceptance to people that are viewing the images from the outside looking in," said Amy Hull, director and head of DE&I at Paycor, a global leader in human capital management. "Points of perspective make a difference."
Diverse Imagery: Good for Business
A website can influence job seekers' first impression; their opinion of the organization can sour quickly if none or very few of the photos on the site include people that look like them.
Photos of a diverse workforce show that the company is committed to expressing an inclusive message that represents and is welcoming to all, Leen said. This can be appealing to both employees and customers as the kind of company with which they want to be associated.
"There is significant evidence that inclusive organizations are happier and more productive ones, and thus more competitive ones," Leen said. "Organizations understand this and compete now in the [environmental, social and governance] and [DE&I] areas for employees, customers and investors—and this starts with the website."
A study commissioned by Shutterstock surveyed more than 2,500 marketers in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Germany and the U.K. about the state of diversity in marketing materials. About 90 percent of Generation X and Millennial marketers believed that diverse representation in marketing materials, including websites, can improve a brand's reputation.
Image diversity can feature workers who are:
- People of color.
- Old and young.
- Physically or mentally disabled.
- Of different cultures.
It's also important to consider diversity in body sizes, Hull explained.
"If our recent social media has taught us anything, it is that people of all sizes are beautiful and should also be included in representing the company's profile online or elsewhere," she said.
Inclusive Imagery Alone Isn't Good Enough
Business leaders interested in diversifying company website images should start by:
- Seeking feedback from their DE&I committee or employee resource groups on how to best present the company in a genuine and authentic manner that shows their commitment to DE&I.
- Speaking with the company's creative department for input on how to design the website in a welcoming, inclusive manner.
- Engaging with other organizations that have used inclusive photos and can speak to the advantages of using them.
However, Hull said, organizations must avoid being inauthentic. For example, a company predominantly made up of workers who are one race or ethnicity should not use photos that portray its workforce as diverse. This can mislead clients, customers or potential candidates.
"I think it's important for imagery to reflect the staff and community in which the company serves," she said. "Honesty and transparency are the best policies. Look at how you can accurately represent who you are, and be transparent about where you are in the journey of becoming a more inclusive work environment."
Becoming a more diverse, inclusive organization requires much effort. Businesses that use diverse photos should also have in place inclusive and nondiscriminatory policies and practices, Leen said. Companies can do this by:
- Providing a budget for DE&I.
- Analyzing the workforce for underrepresentation and seeking to address the issue through sustained outreach and recruitment.
- Seeking to increase accessibility in the organization including through website accessibility.
- Conducting comprehensive, annual pay equity self-audits.
"Employees and customers want to do business with inclusive organizations," Leen said. "Companies that are truly committed to [DE&I] will have a diverse workforce and will have a website and photos that reflect that commitment in the normal course of business, which is the goal."