What Happens When 150 CEOs Get Together To Talk About Diversity

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Yesterday, 150 Chief Executive Officers of mostly large Fortune 500 companies (but also some smaller firms and non-profit institutions), announced a new initiative to which they have publicly pledged to take action on supporting more diverse and inclusive workplaces. The pledge by these corporate leaders focuses primarily on internal actions to improve their own workplaces, but also extends to supporting other companies who are trying to work towards greater diversity and inclusion.

Led by a steering committee that includes the CEOs of Accenture, BCG, Deloitte, General Atlantic, New York Life, Proctor & Gamble and PWC, the “The C.E.O Action for Diversity & Inclusion members pledge 3 things. The first pledge is to make the workplace one where employees feel comfortable having complex, and sometimes difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion. The second pledge is to implement and expand unconscious bias education and training to help employees recognize and minimize their “blind spots.”

Senior CEO
Licensed from: Ivonne Wierink / yayimages.com

The final, and in my opinion, most impressive pledge of the C.E.O. Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative is the pledge to openly “share best practices — and unsuccessful — practices” so that other companies can “evolve and enhance their current diversity strategies”. The key word here that stood out to me was the one emphasized within the pledge statement itself: unsuccessful.

Companies have long touted successful programs, and as someone who personally and professionally advocates for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I always accepted self-congratulatory sharing as a perfectly fair price tag for expanding the world’s awareness of best practices. After all, positive attention should be awarded to those who demonstrate leadership in diversity and inclusion. This is especially because I’m optimistic that one should not underestimate the power of positive peer pressure for others to do the right thing and raise the standard for behavior, culture and policies.

Much rarer, however, is that species of company who admits that an attempt to improve diversity and inclusion didn’t live up to its hopes, despite the best of intentions. When plans don’t pan out in terms of results, you seldom hear about it. This results in similar (and unsuccessful) practices occurring in multiple places without the benefit of learning from history.

Crowdsourcing what works and what doesn’t work is a lofty goal, and one that requires transparency. In this regard, the launch of this C.E.O. Action for Diversity & Inclusion already starts auspiciously with many case studies of what has worked for member companies, grouped by category. In total, there are 17 categories of shared actions, on a wide range of topics such as “Affinity Groups and Networks,” “LGBT Equality”, “Race in the Workplace” and “Recruiting Diverse Talent”.

Though most case studies are brief or generally positive, I have high hopes for this kind of en masse sharing of diversity and inclusion. Typically these kinds of stories are cherry picked in the media or more quietly shared within specialist groups at diversity and inclusion conferences or among even Facebook groups of HR professionals.

My company, Fairygodboss also collates many research studies on gender diversity and equality, alongside primary data generated from women in the labor force about the practices and cultural impact that employer choices have on companies’ abilities to attract female recruits and retain women employees. But to have the highest level of commitment by CEOs to share diversity and inclusion learnings — and even potentially air mistakes — is something that doesn’t happen every day. This initiative is one to be applauded and celebrated. I, for one, will be watching this space closely for updates and developments.

Source: https://www-forbes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/georgenehuang/2017/06/13/what-happens-when-150-ceos-get-together-to-talk-about-diversity/amp/