07 Apr Sowing Social Justice
The Black Lives Matter movement, which began with a hashtag in 2013 and escalated dramatically in the past year, was a defining feature of 2020. BLM is now recognized as the largest movement in U.S. history. The death of George Floyd caused a surge in activism related to racial injustice, bringing the world’s attention to the age-old issue of inequality. People are now demanding that actions be taken to right centuries worth of wrongs.
With the global spotlight on the matter of social justice, we are presented with the perfect opportunity to make serious structural changes to every domain of society. One of the most important areas to address is that of the business world. Without equal opportunity and representation, there can be no equality. In the immediate future, leaders will need to focus on incorporating DE&I into their long-term business strategies, instead of approaching it as a one-time fix in the face of a crisis.
It’s important for business leaders to realize the detrimental effects of this, so that strategy can be implemented on a deeper level and actually have a lasting impact.
All too often, DE&I is thought of as a quota to be met or a statistic to boast. When treated as such, the focus is shifted from fostering actual social justice to simply creating a facade. It’s important for business leaders to realize the detrimental effects of this, so that strategy can be implemented on a deeper level and actually have a lasting impact.
Aside from the moral implications, there are tangible consequences that an organization without an adequate DE&I strategy might face. To name a few, the loss of public support and paying customers, the loss of current and potential investors, as well as the loss of current and potential employees. Furthermore, a lack of diversity can prevent innovation and encourage groupthink, which can leave a company stagnant and irrelevant.
On the flip side, there are huge benefits to prioritizing and actually implementing a long-term DE&I plan. For instance, companies with more women in C-suite level positions deliver 34% greater returns to shareholders than their more male-dominated counterparts. In fact, companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits. There are countless compelling studies that demonstrate the positive correlation between diversity and profitability, yet minorities remain underrepresented. Why is that, and how can we progress?
The answer seems simple: people fear change. It can be a difficult process to get from point A to point B, and sadly many people just aren’t willing to make the effort, or are afraid of what might happen during such an upheaval. With a well throughout change plan, such concerns can be addressed and eradicated.
Change begins on the individual level, and the more companies that prioritize diversity and transparency, the more ripple effect we will start to see.
The good news is, representation of minorities in C-suite positions is becoming more common, and there are many powerful advocates who are accelerating the path towards equality. For example, Nasdaq has filed with the SEC to implement new listing rules which include a board-diversity quota, obligatory for all companies that wish to be listed on Nasdaq’s exchange. When an organization with as much power as Nasdaq makes a regulation such as this, it’s no small feat. This means that the over 3,000 companies on the Nasdaq exchange will have to update their DE&I plans to meet modern standards. Giants such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and many more, are included here and will then serve as examples for other organizations around the globe. Change begins on the individual level, and the more companies that prioritize diversity and transparency, the more ripple effect we will start to see.
Given that 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, organizations with a focus on DE&I will have a better talent pool to select from. Yet, more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. There is still clearly work to be done, even in those organizations that claim to be doing all that they can for the matter. Studies show that leaders report more diversity and inclusion within their company than the lower-level employees do, which just goes to show that our perceptions may not always be accurate and there is always room for improvements.
DE&I isn’t just a box to check, it’s a core value to be represented in everything an organization says, does, and is. There are great benefits to be gained from focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts, and great losses to be suffered from not.
What is your organization doing to ensure that DE&I are an ongoing priority?
Shaara Roman is founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.