Diversity shouldn’t stop at the top

The term “boardroom” for years has conjured the mental image of the same gender with a “diversity of ties” gathered around a long table. Only in recent history has this image begun a dissolve into something new that includes diversity in race, age, gender, experiences, and skills. However, this change has been slow and is still lagging. Research shows that diverse and inclusive organizations are more innovative and thrive in the face of increasing complexity and disruption.  Organizations need to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in the boardroom and c-suite, not just in the departments led by c-suite position holders. 

 According to a recent article from Korn Ferry, “Many companies have made major commitments to add more Black talent, buy more from Black-owned businesses, and build more inclusive organizations. But the biggest prize, and what many say is most important, remains elusive: roles in the C-suite.”  Korn Ferry’s former chief diversity officer, Michael Hyter, is quoted in the article stating, “Black CEO attainment at Fortune 500 firms has been a 55-year underachievement exercise.”

The article goes on to highlight the announcement of Rosalind Brewer’s rise to CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, making her only one of five current CEOs in Fortune 500 firms who are black and the second black woman to hold this kind of position. 

 Another recent article from Harvard Business Review calls out the issues still lingering in corporations’ attempts with inclusive language. The article calls for valuing diversity without “othering” and to measure more categories of age, gender, race, disability, and so on. “Once you’ve done some research, you can get to work on the language of inclusion,” the article states. “Try to approach this journey with cultural humility instead of focusing on your discomfort. You may find that not only are you gaining skills in the language of inclusion but that you’re indeed fostering belonging.”

As organizations consider how to move forward in 2021, valuing diversity in the boardroom and in top positions while mapping out the best steps for the organization to get there will be a priority. This will require increased awareness and openness. Gaps may come to light that are uncomfortable, but wading through the discomfort is the only way to keep moving in the right direction. 


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