After 2020, How Do We Move Forward on Race?
The usual diversity efforts have failed. Let’s take this moment to figure out what can work.
The Wall Street Journal article, "After 2020, How Do We Move Forward on Race?" features findings from our paper, "A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer." The article is excerpted below.
When my book “Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business” was published a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined how much events during the summer of 2020 could advance our national conversation on race. Where before the killing of George Floyd a large segment of white America believed that the nation had largely overcome racial barriers—indeed, many insisted the nation was postrace—there now is growing recognition of the extent to which race continues to pervert our national ideals. The kind of policing so graphically illustrated in Mr. Floyd’s open-air killing has pried open the eyes of many to stark racial disparities that extend to health, housing, education and employment.
Not only are African-Americans far more likely than whites to be viewed as suspects, or contract and die of the coronavirus, they have just one-tenth of the wealth of white families. And they—along with nonwhite Hispanics—are also disproportionately underrepresented in every influential field, including law, fashion, film, publishing, college and university faculties, and corporate boards.
The question now is how to move forward to realize a more racially just society. How can we as a nation capitalize on this rare moment of racial reckoning, which comes in the wake of a contentious election and amid uncertainty about our economy, environment and public health?
In “Diversity, Inc.” I question why, despite five decades of deliberations, hand-wringing and billions devoted each year to diversity initiatives, racial minorities remain disproportionately and acutely underrepresented in most influential fields. And why is the diversity business thriving—fueled by the hiring of chief diversity officers and consultants and the implementation of antibias training and climate surveys—while racial diversity is not? History, after all, can steer us away from decades of costly tried-and-failed practices.
Not even the best efforts will succeed without buy-in from the board and CEO, and sufficient support of those entrusted to deploy a diversity strategy. Tellingly, a 2019 Russell Reynolds survey of Fortune 500 chief diversity officers showed that only 35% had access to the company metrics that would even allow them to assess the problems, and many said they didn’t have the support or resources needed to succeed. So while in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s killing many corporate CEOs have asserted that “Black Lives Matter,” they can best demonstrate their commitment by taking the lead on one of the critical issues of our day.
To read the full article, click here.