When C-Suite Coach partners with Fortune 500 companies, we're often asked — What does our organization need to do to approach diversity & inclusion thoughtfully?
As we know many organizations are focused on moving diversity initiatives forward, here are a few tips for moving diversity initiatives past "well-intentioned" to having meaningful impact:
Accept that diversity & inclusion requires constant evolution
Measure & benchmark progress, even as industry expectations change
Recognize the importance of recalibrating past policies to meet today’s reality
Partner with organizations & nonprofits that are dedicated to DEI as a central part of their mission
Read on below for best practices & examples of actions organizations can take to approach diversity, equity & inclusion thoughtfully.
First — It starts with understanding and accepting that diversity & inclusion require constant evolution. It is a process of unlearning and learning because our world and communities are changing so rapidly. If you look at what industry expectations were just a few years ago, they are not the same today. Employers have to focus on showing up for their employees to demonstrate care & create a sense of belonging. Even for C-Suite Coach, as a diversity-focused organization — it’s a constant relearning as the language of our industry changes. We’ve seen the evolution from “black” to “African American” to “BIPOC” to “Black” with capital B and “Latino” to “LatinX” or “Latine” — we constantly invest in our own learning to stay best in class to make sure we continue to be part of that evolution.
Second — It's important to measure and benchmark progress, even if expectations of what success looks like may change. There’s a quote by Mellody Hobson — co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a minority-led financial firm — and she says that everything that matters in the world is counted. What it brings to light is that we cannot make progress on what we don’t measure. Some nonprofit organizations have led the way in this — the Human Rights Campaign: State Equality Index focuses on ranking LGBTQ policies by state, the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index tracks the performance of public companies who have committed to gender equity, and JUST Capital ranks corporate organizations based on whether they meet the American public’s standards of a “just company”. Even Nasdaq has started to track the number of publicly listed companies that have diverse individuals on their boards.
Third — As we accept the evolution of DEI, there needs to be constant recalibration in the policies we implement; this includes initiatives to expand parental leave, paying employee resource groups for their efforts, offering specialized onboarding for diverse communities, and diversity-focused recruiting efforts. An area where we’ve seen great progress recently is a focus on HBCUs — the NBA recently created an HBCU fellowship to provide job opportunities to talented HBCU graduates; Williams Siebert Shank, a minority-owned bank, partnered with Spelman to build an innovation center partnered with educational grants. Robert Smith, one of the richest black men in America, is partnering with Prudential Finance to help cover college expenses through additional grants to HBCU students. What all these initiatives have in common is not just providing short-term opportunities, but also providing channels for long-term economic success whether it be through financial support or career advancement.
Fourth — Companies truly making progress on diversity & inclusion are not doing it alone; they are partnering with organizations & nonprofits that are dedicated to DEI as a central part of their mission. It’s hard for any organization to come up to speed on an ever-changing landscape like DEI, especially when it may not have been a core focus of your business prior. That’s why it’s important to hire, partner with, and support diversity-focused organizations that have been doing this work for years.
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