Goldman Sachs is no longer doing IPOS for companies with all-male boards. Procter & Gamble has said it would take on race relations by hosting town hall meetings. Deloitte is ditching its employee resource affinity groups in favor of empowering managers to become more inclusive—and holding them accountable for building a more well-balanced company. Walmart, J.P. Morgan, and other large corporations are now requiring more diversity in their supplier programs. These are just a few examples of a gradual shift in the conversation around diversity and inclusion happening for corporations nationally.
But right here at home, there’s still a very real need to move with a sense of urgency. Change cannot happen without being intentional and purposeful. Here are four recommendations for bringing D&I to the forefront of your organization.
- Have Courageous Conversations. Talking about gender, race, and privilege in the workplace is not easy. Identifying personal biases is difficult work. But nothing is ever going to change until we start taking the conversations around diversity and inclusion and making them front and center. In a company, fiscal performance is everybody’s job. Nobody would ever say that you’re going to give innovation or collaboration to just one division of the company. So, too, it must be for diversity and inclusion.
- Make It A Priority. In research I did for my book, Equality: Courageous Conversations About Women, Men, and Race to Spark a D&I Breakthrough, we surveyed 25,000 people and asked: “Where is diversity and inclusion on your radar screen? Is it part of your leadership agenda?” More than 80 percent said, “It’s not on my agenda.” When Beyoncé was looking for a manufacturer for her shoe line, she talked with Reebok, Nike, and Adidas. But when she walked into the meetings, she noticed that few at the table looked like her. Because of that, Nike lost out. Reebok lost out. Adidas won. We don’t have to be Beyoncé to stand up for what’s right.
- Become Unapologetic. Too much of today’s conversation around diversity and inclusion is finger-pointing. We need to stop pointing the finger at white men and blaming them because cultures aren’t inclusive. We all have power seats. We’re just not using them. We need to get to a place where we become unapologetic about the focus that needs to be placed on leveling the playing field. A 2018 report on gender equality out of the U.K. says that if we continue at the same rate on the same course that we’re pursuing right now for equality, it’s going to take 214 years. That’s unacceptable.
- Move Beyond The Rhetoric. As a CEO, it has to be personal for you. You need to feel the injustice of your daughters growing up and starting their careers, earning just 78 cents on the dollar of their male colleagues. If it doesn’t reach that space in the depth of your soul where you’re appalled by the injustice, you won’t do anything. You’ll say a lot of things like “people are the most important asset,” but they will be empty. At the end of the day, you have to be willing to do the hard work to wrestle with your own biases until you choose not to allow those biases to cloud the way you see somebody who’s different than yourself.
Trudy Bourgeois is the founder and CEO of The Center for Workforce Excellence and a national leader on diversity and inclusion.