The case for diversity within teams has been exhaustively made and discussed. As the leader of your virtual team, you are responsible for doing the deeper work of embracing and cultivating diversity at all levels within the team culture.
Here are four key pieces of work you can do to achieve this:
Build trust and safety in your virtual team
A virtual team culture where people feel safe and free to express themselves supports all its members to bring their diverse range of experiences, ideas, perspectives and skills to bear on the goals of the organization. Where there is fear of judgement, discrimination or unhealthy conflict, this is unlikely to happen.
Be proactive on bias and systemic oppression
As the team leader, you can take an active role in seeking out and openly addressing bias or oppression within your organization. It is not enough to state your values on these matters, there must be a clear and active way of challenging any discriminatory practices, policies, thinking or behavior within your team in order to create the conditions for diversity to flourish.
Encourage and amplify a variety of voices and working styles
A leader who truly values diversity will uplift and amplify different voices and approaches within a virtual team, knowing that each brings wisdom and value to the whole. Seek out the opinions of those who are quieter or slower to voice their views. Value multiple perspectives equally, and give equal weight and airtime to all perspectives during ideation.
Call on the lived experience of team members for learning
Team members from diverse backgrounds and cultures hold a variety of lived experience that can contribute to the understanding and evolution of your work as an organization. Those who bring a different lived experience to your own hold important pieces of information about the way the world works that helps build up a more holistic and sophisticated picture to inform your organizational strategy.
Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review for a deeper dive into embracing differences and diversity in your virtual team: