Diversity and Inclusion in the Corporate Space

On March 10thMeridian hosted a discussion on how leaders in the corporate space are accelerating change and striving to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Moderated by Lisa Osborne Ross, U.S. Chief Operating Officer at Edelmanthe program featured the following speakers: 

 John RiceFounder and CEOManagement Leadership for Tomorrow  

Oscar Munoz, Executive Chairman, United Airlines  

In case you missed it, below are the top takeaways from the conversation: 

1) NEED FOR BUSINESS LEADERSHIP ON EQUITY, DIVERSTY, AND INCLUSION 

Over the past year there has been a seismic shift in societal recognition of systemic racism in the United States and many individuals are now looking to corporations to use their influence and implement strong equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives as part of this movement. As outlined by the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, business is now the most trusted sector in term of ethics and competence, making corporate efforts to fight structural oppression essential. Lisa Ross encouraged corporations to use their vast influence to address equity, diversity, and inclusion issues by first addressing their own lack of diversity and thus leading by example. 

 2) EMBRACE AN INTELLECTUAL EQUITY MINDSET  

Approaches to expanding EDI efforts often lack the dedication and analytical thinking companies use when addressing issues in their business model. John Rice encouraged companies to commit to an “intellectual equity mindset” as opposed to a “moral equity mindset”, thus applying the same level of rigor to their diversity and inclusion initiatives as they do to other key business decisions. This process might include establishing short- and long-term strategic goals for expanding diversity and inclusion, using data-driven methods to measure and address existing issues, and implementing accountability mechanisms to ensure that EDI efforts meet stated company goals. 

 3) SOLUTIONS SHOULD FIT THE COMPANY  

There is no perfect policy map for companies looking to expand diversity and inclusion efforts, thus initiatives must fit the company and be internally motivated. Oscar Munoz noted that these efforts should also be reflected in business operations, as exemplified by United Airlines’ expansion of gender pronoun options on airplane tickets. Speakers encouraged businesses to find and invest in diverse talent pools in their specific field and to expand outreach to those who might not have previously considered working in that sector, especially to youth in BIPOC communities. 

 4) HOLISTIC APPROACHES ARE ESSENTIAL 

Successful EDI policies not only expand hiring practices but also address company culture and leadership opportunities. Corporations should create holistic plans to incorporate EDI efforts in all aspects of the company, including expanding mentorship opportunities, addressing board diversity, achieving pay equity, and adapting management practices to better support staff from diverse backgrounds. Without a multi-faceted approach meant to achieve strategic goals, EDI efforts may become “random acts of diversity” and thus fail to achieve genuine change. 

 5) BUILDING A DIVERSE AND EQUITABLE WORKPLACE BEGINS NOW 

While this past year many businesses began implementing EDI efforts, the failure to acknowledge existing structural and cultural problems has prevented others from working towards where they want to be. Speakers emphasized that now is the time to take comprehensive steps to build a diverse and inclusive workplace, for equitable change might never happen if companies refuse to take the first step now. 

Dig deeper into some of the initiatives discussed here:

Project summary

Diversity and Inclusion in the Corporate Space | March 2021
Number of Attendees: 45
Regions: 2, 1, 2
Countries: 3, 3, 2, 1
Program Areas: 1