I hesitated going into the banquet room at the Chattanooga Convention Center for the 2023 Diversify Conference hosted by our Chamber of Commerce and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBSTN). The last time I attended this conference was before the pandemic when I delivered an inclusive invocation. My friend and colleague, Ron Harris of BCBSTN, demonstrated unconscious bias by asking us if we thought he could slam dunk a basketball. We all laughed since Ron is definitely “vertically challenged”. Our biases were immediately visible.
The last few years seem to have been challenging for many people, myself included. Last year, I had the privilege to take a bit of a sabbatical. Even though I found it difficult to fully pull myself away from my work, I was removed enough that when Deborah Levine, Editor in Chief for this publication, asked the Advisory Council members to write on upcoming trends, I felt a little out of touch. I decided I needed to catch up a bit, and I started my research. Much to my dismay, I felt like the more things changed, the more they remained the same. I wasn’t seeing much different than what colleagues and I talked about over 20 years ago. People were still focused on hiring and attraction and leadership development. Some spoke of developing business cases and strategies around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)—or whatever form it’s currently taking.
Frankly, I had hoped we had a lot of this figured out by now.
A Business Perspective
Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) becomes a business necessity rather than a choice. Organizations – including businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities have to reconsider that U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043 and by 2060, 57 percent of the U.S. population will consist of racially ethnic minorities.1 This change towards a more diverse population will have substantial impact on the workforce and how organizations rethink its processes to manage opportunities and challenges related to DE&I.
In fact, there is no shortage of suggestions to create inclusive environments. However, it is crucial to think about the role and positioning of DE&I within an organization’s structure. The question here is whether organizations consider DE&I a HR policy, a management-led initiative, an objective, a trend—or a mixture of all four? Some organizations still struggle to properly define DE&I, which impact the development of appropriate DE&I initiatives to empower and engage underrepresented groups. Making progress on that front requires a deep understanding of the concerns, experiences, and perspectives of people with different ethnicities, nationalities, educational backgrounds, sexual orientation, religion, and gender.
To cultivate a more diverse and inclusive workplace, organizations should focus on DE&I as a strategic business goal rather than a separate initiative or a HR policy. For example, it is not enough that organizations hire employees from different genders, generations, geographies and ethnicities and wait for the magic of DE&I to happen. Considering DE&I as strategic business goals requires specific and measurable actions to engage underrepresented employees within specific timelines. This should be followed by soliciting diverse employees’ inputs in planning and implementing DE&I programs, measuring and reporting outcomes, discussing failures and challenges, and providing solutions to sustain improvements in DE&I programs. Thus, DE&I as a business goal should be embedded in every department, operation, and orchestrated at the organizational levels. In so doing, organizations can achieve meaningful success in promoting, broadening, and maintaining culture of belonging and equitable structures that fully leverage the potential benefits of a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace.
Furthermore, organizations’ decision-making processes to enhance DE&I as a strategic business goal should be driven by many questions including what DE&I means to internal and external stakeholders, what is the target audience of DE&I programs, what programs can best serve the target groups, and how to measure the impact of DE&I programs on the short and long terms. To answer these questions, organizations should focus on strategic tactics and less anecdotal evidence. Specifically, participatory approach and communication are two strategic tactics—over and above the impact of workplace environment as a whole—shape the degree of impact that DE&I programs exert on marginalized employees. Let’s discuss why these tactics can help organizational efforts transit from diversity towards equity and inclusion, with the ultimate goal to build better work environments instilled by human differences.
The first tactic is participatory approach that focuses on reaching out and involving marginalized groups in decisions that affect their lives and communities. Crucially, participatory approaches are needed to help employees feel they belong to an inclusive environment where differences are welcomed and valued. Empowerment is a central concept in, and foundation principle of participatory approaches. It underscores the importance of providing a voice to those who have been overlooked for too long and enabling marginalized, diverse people to advance their concerns about DE&I without fear, and provide them opportunities to develop diverse, inclusive, and equitable initiatives. At the core of the concept of empowerment are concerted efforts to (a) improve the competencies of historically marginalized groups by providing them education and mentorship programs to advance their careers, accordingly, increase diversity in leadership positions, and (b) provide marginalized groups with the resources, support, and environment needed to be fully included in the decision-making processes that shape DE&I initiatives.
The second tactic is effective communication driven by transparency and accountability to bridge the gap between leaders’ and employees’ perspectives about DE&I initiatives. The catch is a two-way communication to ensure that marginalized employees’ concerns and managerial priorities are in alignment. On one hand, managers should clearly communicate DE&I as an integral part of organizational planning linked to organizations’ successes in the marketplace. This requires managers to make a public commitment to enhance DE&I, and be held accountable for desired results. One important aspect of management led-communication is to report about DE&I initiatives by discussing with employees challenges in implementing DE&I programs. Reporting should be based transparency to ensure a thorough communication with underrepresented employees about ways to improve existing and future DE&I initiatives. At the organizational level, a diverse communication team can help increase marginalized employees’ engagement with DE&I through overcoming language and cultural barriers and representing different voices and experiences. On the other hand, employees should commit time and efforts to enhance DE&I by volunteering in diversity committee, participating in surveys to express their concerns, and providing suggestions to improve DE&I initiatives.
Needless to say, there are numerous DE&I initiatives to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplaces. What requires special attention, however, is to set specific metrics to measure the outcomes of DE&I programs to identify what needs improvement and celebrate best practices. Most importantly, organizations should provide training and education for both managers and employees to become more diversity competent and be cognizant of cultural sensitivity. For example, cultural sensitivity trainings can help managers and employees to be more self-aware of their own conscious and unconscious biases. Thus, organizations can require employees at all levels to take regular and mandatory sensitivity trainings to better understand how to coexist in a diverse environment.
The biggest takeaway is that organizations should not consider DE&I as initiatives to comply with government regulations. Organizations should ensure ongoing, open dialogues between managers and marginalized employees to establish a strong foundation for DE&I efforts. Participatory approaches and effective communication should shape the conversation about DE&I. For leaders, the key message is that DE&I is an evolving journey rather than a static plan. It requires holistic strategies and continual commitment to ensure sustained progress to create inclusive workplaces.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 25, 2022
CONTACT: Deborah Levine firstname.lastname@example.org
HEALTH EQUITY AND HEALTHCARE DISPARITIES SPOTLIGHTED IN AMERICAN DIVERSITY REPORT
New Edition Includes Articles, Podcasts, Poems
CHATTANOOGA, TN – Deborah Levine Enterprises LLC today announced the latest issuance of the American Diversity Report (ADR), an award-winning digital multi-media platform containing the latest news, educational resources and related information highlighting key issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the public arena. The theme of the October edition is health, healthcare and equity.
“Our economy is volatile, and an uncertain political environment surrounds the health and wellbeing of Americans,” says Deborah Levine, Editor-in-Chief of ADR and an award-winning author of 15 books. “The diversity of our situation is evident as Covid disproportionally impacted people of color per new infections and higher death rates, as well as glaring disparities in affordable healthcare coverage.”
“This new edition of the American Diversity Report serves as a valuable public resource on critically important topics of DEI during these turbulent times,” adds Levine, who is also a columnist for the Times Free Press newspaper of Chattanooga and was named a “Diversity and Inclusion Trailblazer” in 2019 by Forbes Magazine. “We are all linked by our common humanity and concern for our own the health, in addition to the health, wellbeing and healthcare of our families, colleagues and friends – especially as the United States becomes increasingly more diverse in all aspects of public and private life.”
In addition to the timely articles listed below, the October edition also includes poetry and podcast interviews. The featured articles by ADR advisors and contributors include the following:
- WHY DIABETICS NEED TO VOTE – BY DEBORAH LEVINE
- DIVERSITY AND SPEECH PART 31: HEALTH EQUITY – BY CARLOS CORTÉS AND ADWOA OSEI
- 1 IN 2 AMERICANS KNOWS SOMEONE WITH AN OPIOID ADDICTION
- OVERHAULING THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – BY LIONEL WOLBERGER
Deborah Levine is a management consultant, speaker and leading diversity change agent with 33-years of experience. The inventor of the Matrix Model Management System of neuro-communication, she has received the Champion of Diversity Award from DiversityBusiness.com, the Excellence Award from the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, and the Chattanooga Award for Management Consulting.
Levine’s published articles span decades in journals and magazines such as, The American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, The Bermudian Magazine, and The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin. She’s also a syndicated writer for The Good Men Project, a former blogger for The Huffington Post, and has been featured on C-SPAN Book TV. Further information is available online at https://deborahlevine.com/
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After the killing of George Floyd, Equity Rising, a group of Black professionals, came together to address social justice and equity in the government and in corporations. They believed that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise is essential to the total sustainability strategy of corporations and, therefore, is an essential boardroom function. The DEI expertise brings both functional and demographic diversification of board members. This article contends that since traditionally the DEI function has been populated primarily by people of color and women, DEI expertise will add to the demographic diversification of the board. With the increase in demographic diversity for other functional board positions, DEI experts will aide in establishing a critical mass of women and people of color in the boardroom.
After the killing of George Floyd and with the social unrest that followed, the first author (Dr. Ashton) was talking with Robert Ingram, publisher of the Urban Health Report, that something needed to be done to promote social justice and equity using a two-prong approach, working both through policing and corporations. She believed this two-prong approach would have sustainable positive change for social justice and equity through all facets of Black lives by holding corporations and government entities accountable. This was the beginning of Equity Rising and the push to have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) expertise in the boardroom.
DEI Expertise in the Boardroom
On August 6, 2020, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President And Chair, National Council Of Negro Women and Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer, Google, discussed the importance of Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) having a voice in the C-suite of corporations. Dr. Cole gave Candi Castleberry, a supporter of Equity Rising, credit for bringing together Black professional women, many who serve as CDOs, and focused on elevating the CDO to the C-suite. (CNNBusiness, 2020) Dr. Cole believed that adding CDOs to the C-Suite would bring that expertise to the decision table and increase the demographic diversification of the C-Suite. Equity Rising would like to see CDOs represented in both the C-suite and on boards, just as there is CFO representation, bringing a diversification of function and demographics to the boardroom.
Many CDOs and retired CDOs have a broad base experience to contribute to the strategic sustainability of the corporation. To borrow from Dr. Cole’s general discussion of having Black representation in the C-suite,
“We stand in solidarity with all allies’ communities, but there is a specific need especially at this moment in our country for corporate America, for all organizations to address systemic racism that affects Black people. And [there is not] a contradiction in calling for that and standing simultaneously with all marginalized communities.” (CNNBusiness, 2020)
Marginalized communities, which include all non-dominant groups, including women, Latinos, Asians, indigenousness people and other marginalized groups nationally and globally, need to be represented on corporate boards. In 2020, people of color were only 12.5% of corporate boards. Black board members comprised only 4% of the total board seats, and Black women only 1.5% (Eavis, 2020). There is a push to increase the presence of people of color on corporate boards. Since 2020 to mid-2022, the representation of people of color on boards has increased to 23% for the S&P 500 index and to 16% from 7% for the Russell 3000 index (Michael & Mishra, 2022).
The described model of intentionally increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the board is similar to the one used to obtain more gender diversity on boards. For decades, Irene Natividad, President of the Global Summit of Women, an annual international gathering of women leaders and co-chair of Corporate Women Directors International has advocated for the increased participation of women on corporate boards globally. Natividad is a strong believer in specific targets. And to executives who would argue that women do not have the industry or discipline experience to be on boards, she answers, “did Vice President Gore have tech experience when he got on the board of Apple? There are other skills that are needed, … There are untapped women… The pool is there, it’s just a question of creating the demand…” She acknowledged that the demand is sometimes created by quotas for instance, in California or the UK or the EU. (Nurole, 2019)
We believe that the demand for CDO representation on the board is for marketing, the consumer part, and human resources. But additionally, CDO board members can promote equity and social justice, guard against brand erosion and promote a nimble response in these transformational times.
On December 1, 2020, Nasdaq proposed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies listed on Nasdaq publicly divulge the diversity representation of their board of directors and that SEC require “at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.” (Nasdaq, 2020).
Anthony Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union stated that Nasdaq is bending to this period of history (Nasdaq, 2020). We note that this period in history has been propelled by the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide. Historically, the United Farm Workers Movement, Women’s Rights Movement (Women’s Liberation Movement) and Gay Rights Movements, followed in the footsteps of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement, that is, the Black Movement.
As seen by the change in board representation from 2020 to mid-2022, corporations are being driven by SEC requirements and shareholders’ demand for more diversity on the corporate boards. SEC approved Nasdaq proposal on August 9, 2021 that most companies listed on the exchange will have to hire (a) at least one director who self-identifies as female, and (b) one director who self-identifies as a person of color or LGBTQ+ (Hartunian, 2021).
This period of history fosters the need for CDOs to be appointed to boards, just as CHROs and retired CHROs are now appointed to boards. CHROs are needed because of their broad base contribution to the overall strategic success and to increase gender diversity, and CDOs and retired CDOs should likewise be appointed to the board because of their broad base contribution to the overall strategic success and to increase racial and ethnic diversity across genders. Equity Rising has had discussions with some former CEOs and executives who may influence board selection. There has been more resistance in suggesting that CDOs be on boards than there has been for CHROs. Part of the concern is that in many companies, even though CDOs were given global responsibility, they were not represented in the C-suite. However, we would argue, even if the CDOs were not represented in the C-suite, many diversity leaders established and served on global Executive Diversity Councils chaired by the CEO or CFO and made presentations to both the C-suite and the board of directors. With Nasdaq’s SEC request, we are hopeful that corporations will look to leaders with DEI expertise for board membership.
One former CEO was concerned about admitting CDOs to the board because in past years, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) had been added to boards and the CIOs had a very narrow focus of expertise that did not lend itself to a board’s view. While Michael Hyter, President and CEO, The Executive Leadership Council and former Chief Diversity Officer for Korn Ferry, is a successful example of a CDO who was appointed to a board (Dine Brands Global, Inc.), he is seen as the exception to the rule because he had experience as a Managing Partner at Korn Ferry and the President of Global Novations, a $40M business with 250 staff.
Most people of color, most women of color, neither have executive C-Suite experience in corporate America, nor in direct feeder roles such as CFOs, P&L leaders and general counsel that may lead to CEO or board positions (Larker & Tayan, 2020). People of color are underrepresented in the C-suite. They are 16 percent of the C-suite positions and only 13 percent of the positions that are readily considered for boards, such as, CEO, CFO, and P&L executives. Twenty-six percent of the Fortune 100 have no people of color reporting directly to the CEO (C+1 positions); six percent have no people of color or women as direct reports to the CEO and only four percent of CFOs are people of color. (Larker & Tayan, 2020). Similar to the racial statistics for talent, women hold 25 percent of C-suite positions and only seven percent of the CEO positions are held by women (Larker & Tayan, 2020).
However, many people of color have had meaningful executive level roles and advanced degrees, such as, MBAs and doctorate degrees, requiring rigorous analytical, empirical and decision making before or while functioning as a CDO in corporate America. And this experience can translate into transferable skills for board positions. Bersin refers to the CDO position as “One of the toughest jobs in business” He argues that it is tough because it “is a management strategy, not an HR program.” (Bersin, 2020)
Anderson from LinkedIn Talent Solutions argues that the “Head of Diversity is the job of the moment”, not only because diversity and inclusion “drive business results [increased sales, revenue, stock price] and spark innovation”, but there is a “positive difference in the brand perception of companies with a diversity and inclusion function versus companies without one.” Based on global data, organizations with a dedicated D & I office were 22% more likely to be viewed as industry-leaders with exceptional talent and 12% more likely to be viewed as inclusive for people of color and various backgrounds. (Anderson, 2020)
So why compare CDOs to CIOs? We would argue that CDOs have a strategic view of the organization and that global and corporate CDOs understand and implement DEI as an ecosystem strategy—affecting all the key business areas: operations, sales, marketing, procurement, community involvement/corporate social responsibility, strategic planning, and human resources (Ashton, 2011; Ashton & McElvane, 2019).
Research for Russell Reynolds by Paikeday, et al. found that successful CDOs collaborate and influence across functions. That CDOs are not simply ambidextrous, they are quinquedextrous that is, CDOs are proficient in five business areas. CDOs’ proficiencies include 1) being strategic executors, 2) data-savvy storytellers, 3) influencer champions, 4) savvy and authentic communicators, and 5) pragmatic disruptors. (Paikeday, Sachar, & Stuart, 2019)
When one of the former CEOs compared CDOs to CIOs and expressed concerns with having an emphasis on the Black experience because of the current unrest, Ashton’s response was to emphasize that the overall diversification of boards is essential. Board members need to represent all stakeholders, not any one group. And in these transformational times, CDOs would represent all stakeholders by virtue of their expertise. Because CDOs would focus on equity and social justice, domestically and globally. CDOs would add a valuable perspective to the board impacting CSR, externally, and policies, practices, and procedures, internally. CDOs need to be viewed as full peers with other board members. Part of diversification is diversifying what is seen as essential functions on the board. DEI professionals have a broader breadth and understanding of the organization than the IT specialists.
The importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) to socially responsible investors is also a factor in understanding the rationale for having a DEI perspective on the board. ESG “refers to the three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. Most socially responsible investors, such as, BlackRock and Vanguard, evaluate corporations using ESG criteria to determine which corporations will have an impact on positive social change (Market Business News, 2022).
We believe CDOs who have worked strategically across the organization will have readily addressed the social and governance aspects of ESG. The CDO’s focus on inclusion must encompass respect, integrity, belongingness, and transparency (Ashton D. P., Inclusive Culture Profile, 2016). Inclusion covers the S of ESG, which is how people are treated (respect and belongingness) and the G of ESG, which is how corporations regulate themselves (integrity and transparency).
Just as the CFO specialist or CMO specialist, that are often sought as board members, the CDOs, who have had a companywide span of DEI crossing multiple functions, have a strategic view of the organization and see the organization as an ecosystem (Ashton D. , 2011) (Ashton & McElvane, 2019). They understand Porter’s five competitive forces that determine profitability—threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, threat of substitute products and intensity of rivalry; Porter’s four forces that determine success—1)factor conditions, e.g., human capital and capital resources as well as infrastructure, 2) the quality demanded by the consumers, 3) the absence or presence of related and supporting industries, e.g., suppliers needed for success, 4) the company’s strategy; and Porter’s value chain, understanding the relationship between the primary activities, such as, operations, marketing and sales and the supporting activities, such as, human resources, research and development or procurement, and how to leverage any component of the value chain for a competitive advantage (Ankli, 1992). CDOs have provided advice that have kept corporations from making critical mistakes that could erode brand equity and have during these times helped corporations maintain and enhance brand equity while addressing the needs of the employees.
Imagine, if, in 1998, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America had a strong DEI voice on the board maybe their reputation would have avoided being tarnished by the sexual harassment scandal and a legal judgement costing $34 million (Ashton D. P., 2013); or Ford Motor Company’s $22 million settlements in the 1990s and having the same problem in 2017; or the sexual harassment scandals at FOX and ABC. Imagine if a DEI expert were on the board for H&M, Prada, and Gucci whose brands suffered from what was perceived as racist imagery. Imagine if a DEI expert had been on Facebook’s board would Facebook have lost 6% of its revenue because of the advertiser boycott which was an outgrowth of Facebook allowing the “Boogaloo Boys” on their site that incited violence and printed hate speech.
CDOs have had broad experiences establishing Executive Diversity Councils, and by providing insight to human resources, to marketing, to sales, and to procurement; they have had regular interaction with the C-Suite and have had cross functional partnerships (Paikeday, Sachar, & Stuart, 2019) (Ashton D. P., Diversity Action Committees at Novant Health–North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, 2014).
On its website Russel Reynolds asks, Is Your Board Positioned for Sustainable Success? Two of the inquiries to determine if the board is positioned are:
- Is your culture inclusive?
- Does your board value differences? (Russell Reynolds, 2020)
If DEI is critical to equitable treatment, sustainability, driving business results and innovation, and guarding against brand erosion, professionals with a broad breadth of CDO experience would add value to boards. They are quinquedextrous and they readily address the SG of ESG.
While we would argue that there are CDOs and retired CDOs who are currently quinquedextrous and practice these competencies by being strategic, tactical, and practical, we must lay groundwork to make the consideration of CDOs for board positions a norm. One former CEO recommended that we start by petitioning current CEOs and board members to consider candidates with CDO experience. Other successful strategies for changing the board makeup have been shareholders who advocate for change, for instance, pension funds, investment funds and private equity funds have banded together, and they have written letters and approached CEOs of companies (Nurole, 2019). Another CEO recommendation was to have retired CDOs provide advisory services to and training for the boards of Directors. A long-term strategy is for current CDOs and their allies to request or recommend that CDOs have a seat in the C-suite and the next step would be grooming them for future board positions.
However, if we want quicker movement for this critical expertise on the board, organizations may have to take the same preeminent strategy that was used for increasing the number of women on board positions globally. Natividad refers to it as helicoptering women into board seats, since “it is harder to grow them from the inside.” (Nurole, 2019)
We would recommend that in this pivotal time, it is a necessity to helicopter professionals with DEI expertise into board seats. Besides for the DEI expertise, it would bode well to have professionals who have experienced first-hand the unintentional adverse impact policies, practices and procedures have had on Black employees, customers, and the Black community. DEI experts are prime candidates to promote the learning-and-effectiveness paradigm that Ely and Thomas (Ely & Thomas, 2020) describe as essential to systemic change and a power shift. This systemic change “combat forms of discrimination and subordination that inhibit employees’ ability to thrive” and emphasizes that “Companies will not reap benefits from diversity unless they build a culture that insists on equality” (Ely & Thomas, 2020).
The perfect storm of the killing of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of having DEI expertise on boards clear. This external ‘chance’ event has exerted enormous pressure on Porter’s “4 Forces That Determine Success” included: 1) company strategy, structure & rivalry; 2) related and supporting industries; 3) demand conditions; and 4) factor conditions (Ankli, 1992). DEI expertise has been essential in navigating this perfect storm. DEI expertise can provide direction to systemic change and a power shift promoting equitable treatment of Black people and all marginalized groups both internally and externally to the corporation.
When James White, former CEO of Jamba Juice, was asked by the first author about DEI in the boardroom, he stated, “CEOs must lead the work around Culture and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—the CEO can never delegate leadership and culture!” and that those efforts should have the strong governance and support of the board to measure progress. White has had a strong commitment to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; however, not all CEOs have White’s expertise.
While the CEO can never delegate leadership and culture, CEOs who do not have White’s expertise can add CDOs to the board. The CDO’s expertise is a valuable asset to boards. CEOs, COOs, CFOs and CHROs from both the culture’s dominant group and marginalized groups are welcome allies. But some board members can’t see the trees for the forest. They have a bird’s-eye view—seeing the big picture. But with DEI and ESG, sometimes the devil is in the details. The board member with the CDO expertise may be able to see both the forest and the tree because they have experienced both simultaneously. They can toggle between the trees and the forest—considering primary, secondary and tertiary consequences in the S and G of the ESG.
Anderson, B. (2020, September 2). Why the Head of Diversity is the Job of the Moment. Retrieved from LinkedIn Talent Solutions: https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/diversity/2020/why-the-head-of-diversity-is-the-job-of-the-moment?trk=eml-mktg-lts-20200930-q1covidresources-19cc-cust-dm&mcid=6714199311040741376&cid=7010d000001L6sZAAS&src=e-eml&veh=LHS_EML_20200930_Q1
Ankli, R. E. (1992). Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage and Business History. BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC HISTORY, 228-236.Ashton, D. (2011, Spring). What Makes A World Class Organization? Diversity MBA, pp. 46-48.
Ashton, D. P. (2013, December 16). Resolve Problems Before They Begin. Retrieved from Chief Learning Officer: https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2013/12/16/resolve-problems-before-they-begin__trashed/
Ashton, D. P. (2014, December 16). Diversity Action Committees at Novant Health–North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. Retrieved from Reports-HPOE: http://www.hpoe.org/Reports-HPOE/eoc-novant-case-study.pdf
Ashton, D. P., & McElvane, P. A. (2019, September). Seven Stages of Inclusion (7SI) Maturity Model. Diversity Business Review, pp. 6-11.
Bersin, J. (2020, July 20). Chief Diversity Officer: The Toughest Job in Business. . Retrieved from JoshBersin: https://joshbersin.com/2020/07/chief-diversity-officer-the-toughest-job-in-business/
CNNBusiness. (2020, August 6). Diversity in America. Retrieved from CNN: https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/08/06/diversity-corporate-america-racial-inequality-google.cnnbusiness/video/playlists/business-corporate-responsibility/
Eavis, P. (2020, September 15). Diversity Push Barely Budges Corporate Boards to 12.5%, Survey Finds. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/business/economy/corporate-boards-black-hispanic-directors.html
Ely, R. J., & Thomas, D. A. (2020, November 1). Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/11/getting-serious-about-diversity-enough-already-with-the-business-case
Hartunian, J. S. (2021, August 10). SEC Greenlights Board Diversity Requirements. Retrieved from The National Law Review: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/sec-greenlights-board-diversity-requirements
Larker, D. F., & Tayan, B. (2020). Diversity in the C-Suite. Palo Alto: Stanford Closer Look Series: Corporate Governance Research Initiative.
Michael, F., & Mishra, S. (2022, July 21). Racial and Ethnic Diversity on U.S. Corporate Boards—Progress Since 2020. Retrieved from Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance: https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/contributor/fassil-michael/
Nasdaq. (2020, December 1). Nasdaq to Advance Diversity through New Proposed Listing Requirements. Retrieved from Nasdaq: https://www.nasdaq.com/press-release/nasdaq-to-advance-diversity-through-new-proposed-listing-requirements-2020-12-01
Nurole. (2019, August 2). After campaigning for board gender balance for decades Irene Natividad is finally seeing result. Retrieved from Nurole: https://www.nurole.com/news_and_guides/irene-natividad-president-of-global-summit-of-women-discusses-gender-balance-on-boards
Paikeday, T. S., Sachar, H., & Stuart, A. (2019, March 1). A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer. Retrieved from Russell Reynolds: https://www.russellreynolds.com/insights/thought-leadership/a-leaders-guide-finding-and-keeping-your-next-chief-diversity-officer
Russell Reynolds. (2020). Is Your Board Ready for What’s Next? Retrieved from: https://www.russellreynolds.com/services/ceo-board-advisory-partners?rm=Promo
Dr. Nagwan R. Zahry is assistant professor of communication at U. of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Originally from Egypt where she was a Sr. Program Manager for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Midwest Universities Consortium, Nagwan got her PhD from Michigan State U. in media and information. After graduation, she became an assistant professor of communication and in 2018, she joined UTC where she teaches social media marketing, public relations, media and diversity. Her research focuses on science communication, health communication and persuasive messaging.
Hear the discussion:
1- What are some of your research findings that surprised you?
2- would you elaborate more on your media and diversity course?
3- Does your research areas change overtime? If so, why?
And learn how to counteract scientists’ negative stereotypes as governors try to communicate empathy during Covid-19.
Editor’s Note: I am honored to be a frequent presenter at Dr. Zahry’s classes. Education is central to the future of DEI.
Lorne Steedley serves as Vice President, Diversity and Inclusive Growth at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
As I began to frame my thoughts for this presentation, I was reminded of the Chamber’s effort to capture hopes and aspirations found in the Chattanooga Climbs strategic plan. These aspirations included: increasing regional prosperity, delivering economic mobility for all, and fostering inclusive economy through collaborative leadership.
Building off the Chattanooga Climbs strategic plan, I began my efforts at the Chamber as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusive Growth by focusing on the business case for racial equity. The business case for racial equity was first coined by a special report by the WK Kellogg Foundation published in 2018. The report elevated the economic cost of exclusion to the US marketplace through institutional barriers. That said the report stated that economic growth is achievable through reforms in lending, education, criminal justice, housing, health disparities, business development, and training.
Continue reading Diversity Town Hall 2021: Lorne Steedley
Eric Fuller is President & CEO of U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc. He guides the company in corporate responsibility and creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
If you’re not familiar with U.S. Xpress, we are a trucking company, that is, a transportation logistics company with about 10,000 employees, that runs in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. From a business perspective, for the last ten years plus, there has been a lot of discussion about diversity, and in the business arena it’s very much around diversity of thought and approach. So if I have a diverse set of people, and diversity meaning backgrounds, religion, race, ethnicity and education, then I’m going to get a better product. I’m going to get better ideas. I’m going to get unique ideas. If you’re sitting around trying to solve a problem and you’ve got eight people in the room, and all eight people went to the same high school and have the same degree, and you have kind of the same general background, then you’re going to get an insular answer to your problem. So, the general idea is, the more people I have with different backgrounds and different approaches, the better answer I’m going to get. And when you hear diversity, for a long time, even prior to the George Floyd situation, that was what the business community was talking about.
A few things have happened over the last, I’d say 2-3 years, that have greatly accelerated this discussion in the business community. One is the move towards technology and this has really been driven by venture capital. As much as some of us may not like it. I’m giving Uber a lot of the credit for creating an environment in which venture capital could invest in almost any kind of industry. Prior to Uber, they invested heavily in technology and software companies and industries like that. Then all of a sudden when Uber came out, they proved that you can invest in any kind of industry and make it tech. Then a lot of capital came into other industries, disrupting them. And what that has been done in the last two or three years has made all these other companies have to suddenly become a tech company.
We now say, “Oh no, we’re not a trucking company, we’re a tech company”. I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a CEO of a big manufacturing company who says, “Oh no, we’re a tech company”. Insurance companies call themselves tech companies, and banks, too. So everyone’s calling themselves a tech company. That comes with a different set of expectation and requirements from an employee base. And the type of employees that you need to have in a tech company is drastically different than you would need from the legacy of an industrial company like ourselves. That’s a big shift and you have to understand what type of workforce that’s needed and that workforce may look very different from your previous workforce. That’s a big shift in your workforce that has occurred over the last couple years in every company, at least every large company, that’s trying to become tech.
The other piece is obviously generational. We’re seeing more and more people retire. You know baby boomers are getting to retirement age, so we’re seeing that change. Covid has accelerated the retirement; and has also accelerated the tech piece and made that even more relevant today. And then, the George Floyd situation brought all this to the forefront and got everybody talking about specifically racial equity. That really took a lot of businesses and especially business leaders down the soul searching path.
So, you ended up going through what all I have to do to manage my business because a lot of your workforce now is younger. You know, if you’re going with more of a tech workforce, they’re a lot more progressive coming out of college. They are looking for a company that has more of a social approach to their business. They want to have a company that takes a stance. One of the big things that we hear from them, I think the numbers are over 75% of students coming out of college, is that diversity and inclusion is one of their top considerations for where they want to work. It’s not just a diverse workforce. Kids coming out of college say, “I want to work at a diverse business. I want to work in a diverse or inclusive company.” So the moral and ethical is becoming a requirement for the younger workforce as well. And you know that the moral and ethical piece is personal for a lot of people.
So, as we were going through this process of figuring out where we wanted to evolve the company and how we approach diversity and inclusion, the first process feels like it’s a moral thing to do. It’s the ethical thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. But keep in mind not all workforces are wired that way, and in my industry, I have a very blue-collar workforce. Our almost 8,000 truck drivers are in their 50s or older. It’s a workforce that may not be as inclined to change their opinions or be as progressive as others. When you go to this group, and you say that this is a moral or ethical imperative, the response oftentimes that you get back is, “You don’t tell me what’s moral or ethical I know what’s moral or ethical.” So that conversation from a business perspective doesn’t necessarily work.
But what does work is the financial component. When you go back to your workforce and say, “No, this is actually a financial imperative if we want to be successful. If we want to excel, we want to grow, we want to do all these things that we’re trying to accomplish in our business, we have to do these things around diversity, inclusion, and equity. And if we don’t, then we won’t be successful.”, When you put it in that kind of context, 90% of your workforce gets behind you. We have seen a big shift when we originally started having some conversations to where we put in a financial component. People then make that big shift really quickly, because then, many will say, “Well, I don’t have the ability, necessarily, to know what’s financial. If you tell me that this is a financial imperative, I believe so.” But if I tell them it’s moral and ethical, that’s not my place. So sometimes you have to take a different path to get somewhere right in the business world. A lot of times, you do have to make it a financial journey to get people to go where you want to get them. And it’s not just lip service. To be honest, it’s very much a financial situation that we’re dealing with, so I’ll give you a little bit of context.
I have some concerns about where the business world’s going as it relates to small to midsize cities like Chattanooga which compete against places like Dallas and Atlanta and other areas that are much more diverse and have a more a diverse community. And I think that smaller and midsize communities have a real problem if they don’t embrace diversity and inclusion. I’ll demonstrate with a couple of stories as we went through trying to hire a new type of workforce and a younger workforce.
We found a lot of issues on trying to find people in Chattanooga that could meet our needs. In fact, we opened two offices, one in Atlanta in early 2019. and one in Phoenix Arizona, and those two offices are where most of our growth is happening today. And it’s happening because we’re hiring a younger diverse workforce, and that workforce doesn’t exist in Chattanooga. Some of it’s skillset-based, but some of it is where people want to live and work.
We’ve had a number of employees that we’ve tried to bring in to the Chattanooga market. Previously when we would try to bring people here, we’d bring them and their spouse to Chattanooga, put them up in a hotel on a Friday and let them stay the weekend. By Sunday, they were ready to sign because it’s a nice city. It’s pretty and there’s all sorts of outdoor activities. Then we started going after a more diverse workforce and got a lot of people who didn’t want to come.
In fact, I had a woman that we really wanted to hire from New York City. She was Korean, and we brought her here for the weekend. She called Saturday morning and said, “I’m leaving early, and I’m not interested anymore.” ,When we asked why, she said . “There’s no community for me here. There’s no one that looks like me, there are no restaurants here. The level of diversity for me doesn’t exist.” And that’s what we’re hearing more and more.
We’ve also tried to hire a few black executives from other cities. But when they come to Chattanooga, they see that it’s a very segregated community, and they don’t want to be here. They feel more comfortable in places like Dallas or Atlanta than they do in Chattanooga. That’s something that the community here has to change, or we are going to fall further and further behind from a business perspective. And businesses are going to have to embrace it, too.
For some businesses ,it’s their life cycle. They’re saying, “I’m not trying to grow, not trying to become this tech company, and just kind of happy where I am. I don’t need all this, you know new younger people. I don’t need this new approach, so, therefore, this is less important to me.” I think that’s a foolish approach for a lot of reasons, and I think that you know what will happen if they don’t get behind this and adapt. For some people, they may be able to wait another 5 or 10 years. But the workforce and the demographics are greatly changing, and they’re going to have to shift in that direction.
There is a little bit of a personal journey for a lot of people and I’ll give you just a little bit of my personal journey. For a long time, I was always very supportive of diversity & inclusion, but not quite sure that I knew what D&I was. And I also think that a number of us executives that are my age or a little bit older come from a generation where you don’t talk about race. You don’t talk about sexual orientation, and you don’t talk about things that make people uncomfortable. You just don’t do it, and I didn’t. It was probably around the timeframe of the George Floyd situation where I started making myself very vulnerable, and it was very uncomfortable. And I would have conversations with people in the community and in my business. And I had conversations with black individuals. I had conversations with gay individuals.
And I tell you what, I was so uncomfortable. I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin having this conversation. And I found that I was more uncomfortable than they were. But as I had that conversation, I learned so much, and I really pushed to my organization to go have uncomfortable conversations. I think you know that it’s those of us who have grown-up like this that fear it the most.
When I sit down with somebody and ask them questions and start to learn about things in their life, it’s eye-opening, but I was taught that you don’t do that. You definitely don’t ask anything like that. You stay away from it. But it’s imperative and those friends of mine, especially in the business community, that have gone in this direction, have gone down the same path. You know they’ve gotten to that point where they asked uncomfortable questions and made themselves vulnerable and it’s an eye-opening experience. So that’s just you know a little bit about my personal journey, and it’s a new journey. It’s been about a year and a half or two years, but it’s been something that’s been eye-opening for me and something that I’m really pushing internally in the company to try to get others to think that way as well.
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Equity Impacts Corporate Decisions
Why have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise in the Boardroom? Look at the controversy swirling around the Georgia’s voting law–the backlash, the boycott, and the backlash to the boycott. Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens lose from both the law and the boycott. I contend that if there had been DEI experts on the boards of the major corporations that traditionally lobbied in Georgia, this may have been averted. Corporations could have predicted how the passage and signing of the bill into law may have impacted their brand. While the bill was being crafted social justice concerns could have been addressed, along with concerns regarding voting integrity. When you are driving you slow down before you come to the hairpin curve rather than trying to correct for it afterward. I have always contended that we should resolve a problem before it begins.
Rayna Edwards is a principal consultant in Mercer’s Workforce Strategy & Analytics practice, where she specializes in DEI analytics, including pay equity analyses. She will address 1) The importance of understanding how the employee experience differs by race and gender. 2) (for business/HR leaders) How to pull meaningful insights from data that is typically housed in a company’s HRIS system. 3) (for business/HR leaders) The importance of a statistically rigorous pay equity analysis in closing pay gaps.