Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

To mark Black History Month, we at Russell Reynolds Associates are reflecting on the critical contributions of Black leaders to the enlightening conversations that we have held this year regarding racial justice.



For many people, the past nine months have been a period of learning about the inequities that Black people continue to face in life and at work – and finding ways to take meaningful actions to promote true equality.

Much of what we learned about how to impact racial justice in the corporate world came from Black business leaders who joined us as panel speakers, webinar presenters, and interview participants. Their insights are valuable for leaders looking for strategic actions to meaningfully increase diversity, inclusion, and equity in their organizations. While many organizations have started on this journey, there is always room for growth.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly important issues for organizations to get right—not only because of the moral imperative to do so, or the higher likelihood of better business outcomes, but also because they are table stakes to attract and retain top talent. As we have observed in recent conversations, the entrepreneurship route is becoming an appealing and viable path to success for Black professionals who do not find the right opportunities in corporate America.

Here, we share a roundup of our top takeaways from Black leaders to inspire and encourage other leaders to continue the momentum and to take more action towards increasing diversity outcomes in business. Meanwhile, we continue to heed their advice ourselves, as we move toward action on this important issue.

Top takeaways for organizational leadership:

APPROACH EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY WITH THE SAME STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK AS OTHER BUSINESS METRICS.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, on having an evaluation framework for achieving DE&I outcomes.
“Organizations need to think about how they can develop a matrix for equality and diversity in the same way they develop a matrix for dividends and returns. We understand the private sector is driven by dividends; that is the current construct. When we talk about achieving equitable change, you also have to develop a matrix for evaluating equality and diversity in the same way that you evaluate whether or not the organization is doing work that is sustainable over time and provides dividends for the shareholders.”

RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DE&I SHOULD SPAN ACROSS THE ENTIRE LEADERSHIP TEAM.
Candi Castleberry Singleton, vice president, diversity partnership strategy and engagement at Twitter, on creating shared accountability across the organization to create sustainable change for to racial justice in the workplace.
“Sustainable change is not going to happen by words, it’s not going to happen by PR statements. It’s going to happen because organizations create shared accountability in the organization – with HR, with PR, with communications and with procurement – in the way we think about how we go out to bid and who we partner with from a vendor perspective. The work cannot sit simply in the lane of DE&I. It should be shared and more transparent.”

THE EXPERIENCE OF ALL EMPLOYEES SHOULD REFLECT THE ORGANIZATION’S VALUES—AND ALL EMPLOYEES SHOULD FEEL THAT THEY SHARE IN THE ORGANIZATION’S SUCCESS.
Brickson Diamond, CEO of Big Answers, on creating a direct pathway between the values and success of an organization and its diverse employees sharing in that success.
“What is positive and what is constructive are really around the notions of organizations digging into conversations about their values and their success metrics. What are the markers of success for our founders, leaders, and senior folks? And how well connected are diverse people to those values and metrics in their lived experience? Are we building out pathways, platforms and connectivity points for diverse employees to fully understand the value set of the organization? Are diverse people enjoying the success? How equitably are folks participating in the riches of your success? When organizations are doing that, they are creating inclusion, belonging, and success not just for Black or BIPOC members of the team, but for the whole organization—and giving new vitality to the organization as a whole.”

FIND BALANCE BETWEEN IMMEDIATE REACTIONS TO CURRENT EVENTS AND SUSTAINABLE COMMITMENTS THAT ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING NEEDS.
Leslie Mays, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Gates Foundation, on balancing the need for urgent responses with sustainable impact.
“I believe we are at a tipping point. This is a unique point in time when a window has opened, and we have to push as much as possible through that window, as DE&I leaders and executives in our organizations, because when the news cycle changes – and it will change – it doesn’t mean that this need will go away. But it means that we would have had to have been strategic and make things happen in a way that we haven’t before. There is a desire to do something, to make statements, and to put money into it – but let’s be very strategic and thoughtful so that what we do in this time does have sustainable impact going forward. That’s the opportunity that we have to focus on.”

WHEN DEVELOPING DE&I STRATEGIES, ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD TAKE A MORE HOLISTIC VIEW OF THE CHALLENGES DIVERSE GROUPS ENCOUNTER.
Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, recognizing the intersectional nature of the current movement for racial justice.
“Everyone must recognize that racial injustice is tied to gender injustice, is tied to disability injustice, and that economic injustice makes its way through all of that. This younger generation of leaders are not afraid to name that recognition in how they work and the agendas they are creating.”

AUTHORS

  • BRADLEE BENN is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Financial Services practice and co-leads its Diversity and Inclusion practice in the Americas. He is based in New York.
  • JEMI CROOKES is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Center for Leadership Insight. She is based in Washington, DC.
  • ALPHA MENGISTU is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Leadership & Succession and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices. She is based in Boston.
  • TINA SHAH PAIKEDAY is Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Services at Russell Reynolds Associates. She is based in San Francisco.
  • TR STRAUB is a senior member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Corporate Affairs practice, and co-leads the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice in the America. He is based in Washington, DC.
  • ALIX STUART is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Center for Leadership Insight. She is based in Boston.
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We truly understand that nurturing and sustaining diverse, equitable and inclusive leadership is a proven way for companies to make smarter decisions.
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH