I am always amazed at the ineffectiveness of diversity and inclusion efforts.
I am always amazed at how humans repeat the same mistakes time after time. Even when their actions and behavior are flawed and cause harm to others, they become cognitively illiterate and continue flawed efforts. This post’s focus is to discuss the blind belief of executive leaders regarding their view and understanding of diversity and inclusion initiatives and those who are leaders of diversity and inclusion efforts in their organization.
I have come to believe that the intent for developing diversity initiatives and hiring talented individuals to lead those initiatives are generally sincere. However, I view such positions as vice presidents for diversity and chief diversity officers as a barrier to recruiting, growing, and retaining diverse executives. Based on historical data, one might argue that diversity leads have had little influence on senior executives or board members’ decision-making process when selecting senior-level direct reports that remain primarily white males.
Data dating back to the mid-60s confirm that organizations that employ women and minorities in leadership positions are generally more profitable; they generate more revenue and long-term sustainability. Though white males make up only 38% of the population, thirty percent, when you adjust the numbers for Latinos that identify as white, recent reports estimate that they hold 70 % of all senior executive positions in Fortune 500 companies. White females hold about 20% of senior executive positions, which leaves 10% or one of ten senior executive positions for all others.
However, because such a small number of companies report verifiable diversity data, it’s challenging to know the real data regarding diversity at any level in organizations. As such, let us turn to scholarly data regarding corporate diversity, which is challenging to locate. However, David G. Embrick (2011) academic paper The Diversity Ideology in the Business World: A New Oppression for a New Age highlighted some astonishing data regarding diversity in corporate America. I contend that the data supporting his research has not changed significantly to date. Much of the data identifying diverse senior executives in organizations is reported as a percentage of employment improvements for women and minorities, not actual real numbers. This calculation method can show an astounding increase in the numbers of women and minorities when the exact amount of hiring and retention can be counted on one hand and, in most cases, on a few fingers.
I would argue that the number of women and minorities in executive-level positions has not changed considerably since 2011 when Embrick found that white males held 97 % of all C-suite positions. Even today, some executive recruiting firms exclaim that the numbers have worsened in the last three years because of the unfavorable support for women and minorities in executive-level positions from the current administration.
Though more recent reports show some improvement for white females, there has been little change in minority hiring, retention, and promotion numbers for senior-level executive positions. As previously mentioned, some scholars have placed the number of minorities in senior-level executive positions in Fortune 500 companies as 1 in 10.
For years people of goodwill, the federal government, and university research have argued that having women and minorities in senior executive leadership positions is good for business. So too, many have argued that diversity in executive positions and on boards is not only good for business, but it is the right social thing to do. This appeal to the pocketbook and the heart has had minimal influence in changing the appearance of either board members or executives in Fortune 500 companies. Thus, what are we left to do? We must alter the cognitive belief beliefs of senior-level hiring leaders. As such, we must revise our approach to diversity and inclusion in organizations across America.
First, I propose that we change the diversity and inclusion name to dignity and respect. I believe that the title diversity and inclusion is tainted because it has become incredibly commercial. Far too many organizations that are in the business of measuring the success or failure of diversity initiatives within an organization have become addicted to the capital they earn and not the crucial results they are measuring.
To prove their commitment to diversity, most organizations produce elaborate magazines, create various diverse groups, give fancy speeches, and hold diversity symposiums, and nothing has changed. We return to the same issue year after year, which is that senior-level executive positions are on hold for white males. Talented minority executives are often passed over for promotions and critical executive positions even when it is known that having little or no diversity in senior-level positions within organizations is detrimental to an organization’s long-term financial health. As such, here are my recommendations.
First, those few organizations that recognize Fortune 500 companies for achieving diversity excellence should have measurable standards. An organization’s ability to produce propaganda such as segregated groups and magazines should not be recognized as champions of diversity. Organization leaders should demonstrate a long-term commitment to growing diverse employees throughout their organization. They should provide measurable documentation that they are recruiting diverse candidates and that they are also retaining diverse team members in executive-level positions. Additionally, the companies that are in the business of selecting and awarding organizations the distinction of being the best should not take donations from organizations awarded high recognition for supporting diversity.
Second, I realize that this could be controversial because many of my friends hold leading diversity positions in organizations, which I believe to be the single biggest hindrance to improving organizational diversity. Those that hold the title VP, director, or chief diversity officer should be honored with a new title: the chief dignity and respect officer. Their role should be that of an educator, not an initiative creator. They should be social scientists educated in human development, organizational culture, and American history. Currently, I would be hard-pressed to find individuals that hold those positions doing no more than creating infinity groups, monthly diversity articles, diversity conferences, monthly meetings, and serving as a firewall between the employees and the senior-executive team.
Making these changes will be difficult, but the traditional approach to supporting diversity and inclusion time has ended. Let’s move our organizations into the future and make a positive lasting difference by creating a culture of dignity, respect, and diversity-friendly organizations across our great country through an intense reeducation effort.
Yes, I am always amazed at how we hold on to the paste even when it painful, outdated, and useless.
Diversity Jobs. (2020, June). Diversity at work. Retrieved from https://www.diversityjobs.com
Embrick, D. G. (2011). The diversity ideology in the business world: A new oppression for a new age. Critical Sociology. 37(5), 541-556.