In my 20-plus years working in organizational and leadership coaching, I've spent a lot of time working with corporate diversity teams to implement, communicate, and promote their initiatives. What I've come to realize is that, for all their good intentions, all too often diversity practices and programs serve to protect and provide cover for the corporate image rather than educate and retrain employees.
This needs to change. In the wake of protests following the killing of George Floyd and the exposure of mistreatment of Black Americans in society and in corporate America, it's time for all leaders to be held accountable for what they haven't done to change bias and mistreatment of Black people.
Most companies have some sort of diversity and inclusion policies. The failure of these efforts is that, while companies are spending more than $1 billion a year on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, only 25 percent of employees the programs are designed to help say they are beneficial to them.
Right now, there are only five Black CEOs on the 2020 list of Fortune 500 companies. How does corporate America explain this other than calling it what it is: socially permissible racist behavior that has endured far too long.
While some may see it as a radical approach, defunding diversity departments can be an effective fresh start initiated through a multi-phased moratorium that explores the onboarding of expanded policies and new approaches. A focus on looking at DEI through the lens of humanistic leadership gives corporations the opportunity to see what's working and what's not, which allows corporations to make informed decisions on funding targeted and specific diversity programs.
In a Covid-19 environment coupled with calls for racial equity, diversity leaders and corporations must go beyond releasing heartfelt public statements and take action towards a fair and just workplace.
Here are five ways diversity leaders can start the shift:
- Drop the Word Minority from Your Vocabulary. Diversity departments can no longer afford to dump every non-white employee into one big bucket called "minority." Different demographics require different programming, which leads to the next step, segmenting.
- Segment Diverse Programming. For example, race and gender inequities are completely different and should be acknowledged as such when creating programming.
- Conduct Personality Assessments. Each employee should know the challenges and bias behind their individual personality and behavioral preferences, as well as how this affects their ability to effectively interact with others.
- Execute an Anonymous Audit. Obtaining unfiltered feedback from employees is the only true way to gain a look into the company's culture.
- Identify the Champions. Identify your "true" diversity champions and empower them to suggest meaningful changes towards creating an environment that appreciates diversity.
As companies are revisiting their DEI initiatives, it's time to follow the money being poured into DEI and examine the humanity behind the policy.
Dr. V. Brooks Dunbar (Dr. V.) is the CEO & Founder of The Center for Confidence. Serving as a motivational author, confidence coach, and executive leadership coach, Dr. V. is on a mission to develop effective leaders into change makers who propel positive change in the workplace and society.