As we begin 2022, my strong advice to corporate, nonprofit and association boards (where true power resides) regarding how to actually fight institutional racism is the following: If your board and senior executive teams worldwide do not match the demographics in which you reside, operate or serve, you are at greater risk than ever before.
Starting from the bottom never works. The strategy must always be top down with the numbers, jobs, executive peers, board peers consultants and supplier diversity matching the national and global demographics. Sprinkles are not enough. Your ethnic diversity data is now required to be reported publicly and that will require both transparency and accountability. The excuses for not accomplishing this best practices approach are old and do not hold water any longer.
To make up for decades of numbers in single digits at each level of employment as well as for the boards themselves, every board needs to vote in next meetings for all levels from intern to board itself to be 50% workers and executives of color. That’s correct, 50%. Authentic data drives the world today and hiding, spinning, collapsing categories and solely releasing percentages is never authentic. Raw, ethnic, diversity data is required by all moving forward. If not, boards will face intense outside pressure to fulfill this important best practices approach goal from many stakeholders, including shareholders and activist groups.
In fact, it is an excellent time of year to retire or fire those who continue to hinder global progress on this and other important goals for tipping-point change. The research is clear: truly diverse organizations from intern through board levels make, on average, 1/3rd MORE MONEY than others (McKinsey and Deloitte research). This should chase every excuse out the door, including those standing in the way. Because the only reason true leaders would not actually accomplish this goal is because prejudice or racism supersede the courage to bring this valuable tipping-point change.
In addition, my opinion regarding the chief diversity officer (CDO) title in most corporate and agency organization is cover. The position for decades has hindered progress because most CDOs are hired to fulfill the current board and c-suite true goal of doing very little to simply cover the … butt of so called leaders who are frightened of authentic, tipping-point change. If you don’t believe me, study the raw, ethnic, diversity data at every level of most organizations with CDOs. They do not improve the numbers of executives of color, especially Black, Latino and Asian executives into every senior executive level of organizations. In fact, some CDOs do not even have as part of their job description to be rewarded or measured by helping to increase the number of executives of color hired into their own organization. Most CDOs are simply publicists for the agenda of seeking to look like the organization cares about diversity, equality and inclusion issues, but it never truly held accountable to the raw, ethnic diversity data of employment, at every level within the organization. Nor are most chief human resource officers, nor are most CEOs or board of directors.
However, that is now changing. The federal government, through EEOC, as well as shareholders who buy public corporation stock, including civil rights and activist investors, are holding corporations much more accountable than ever before. As we know, most public relations and marketing agencies are owned by advertising conglomerates, which are publicly traded. The real pressure and the real change will occur when shareholders, even those who only own a few shares of stock, speak truth to power are shareholder meeting on a quarter basis. This is where the opportunity to speak truth to real power lives. Questions like: if X company sells products and services and has offices and locations in urban areas like New York City and cities worldwide, why does its workforce, especially at the executive levels, from Vice President and above, not mirror in representation, ideas, services and products developed, designed, sold and more by executives of color? Why is your board not at least 50% executives of color? Why is your c-suite not 50% executives of color? When will the CEO or COO be an executive of color? Should we have to wait 20 more years for these changes to take place? Is it really ok to continue to simply say we can’t find any? Or say we interviewed more than a dozen last year but they didn’t fit our culture or didn’t have the right experience to work for the organization?
We must understand that the problem lies directly with those current in power making these decisions. They are what hinders real progress. They are the problem, not the supply of qualified executives of color in the world consistently seeking the opportunity to lead versus fulfilling the current guess of criteria to do excellent work and provide excellent leadership. Why? Because they have never been given the opportunity to lead in the numbers needed to create the tipping-point level of executive peers of color in each meeting and each division by the dozens. Not one or two, but by the dozens.
This strategy continues to scare the crap out of most white leaders in the world. In fact, it has never happened in the history of the world. Not because excellent leaders of color don’t exist. But for one reason only: few ever get the opportunity to lead, manage league teams of workers and show how they can greatly contribute. Fear is a liar. Fear is real. Fear keeps numbers of executives of color low. To have a goal of 50% at all levels to many white leaders seems impossible. Impossible is nothing for those with true vision and confidence in those different than themselves. It also takes major changes to the current set of criteria for success and an openness to newer, better and creative ways to win beyond wins in past.
The future is now. The future is more diverse regarding race then ever before. The world is not white. The world is a mosaic of many colors. It is high time we embraced it. And, when it works, it makes much more money than it does now. If needed, let the color green lead you to new leadership. We exist. Pressure makes diamonds.
President & CEO
Reputation Doctor® LLC