Tina Shah Paikeday of Russell Reynolds Associates: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society
The Authority Magazine article, "Tina Shah Paikeday of Russell Reynolds Associates: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society," featured a Q&A with Consultant Tina Shah Paikeday. The article is excerpted below.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Tina Shah Paikeday.
Tina Shah Paikeday leads the global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion advisory services at Russell Reynolds Associates. Her work has included the recruitment of Chief Diversity Officers, the development of inclusive leaders and inclusive culture transformation. She has advised global diversity, equity and inclusion councils and executive leadership teams on the development of operating models for the formation and governance of DE&I functions, data-informed approaches to developing impactful DE&I strategies and recommended action steps and programs to achieve DE&I goals.
The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
On the heels of COVID-19 disproportionately affecting minorities in essential jobs, the tragic deaths of George Floyd and others this year woke up America to the existence of systemic racial bias, including corporations acknowledging the potential for inequity in talent management systems. In some ways it was a complete relief that welcome the opportunity to audit current processes, practices and procedures to redesign them in a way which offered a level playing field to all talent — regardless of what background they came from. At Russell Reynolds, we renamed our D&I practice to the DE&I practice, adding the “E” for equity and doubling down on our efforts to ensure that we bring equity into our search practices in order to deliver both diverse slates of candidates and inclusive leaders.
The boiling point is a result of the challenge that exists when we try to rectify past wrongs and unintentionally forget that everyone is suffering in some way at this very challenging moment, whether through loss of jobs, isolation, illness, loss of loved ones, or many other things the global pandemic has presented for us. We cannot forget to bring everyone along in this DE&I journey to seek greater understanding including white cisgender men, the families of police officers and those on both sides of the political fence. As leaders of DE&I work, it is our responsibility to find a way to do this work that enables everyone to be at the table and to be seen, heard, and feel like they belong.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
My journey with DE&I initiatives began when I started as a first-year student at the University of Virginia. I became involved in the Honor System, a student run governance system that seeks to create a self-governing system of honor by expelling students found guilty of lying, cheating or stealing. When I became involved in the system, I was shocked that Black students were expelled at a rate that was disproportionately higher than their representation in the University. Feeling a sense of injustice at the fact that a phenomenon called “spotlighting” in which students and faculty were turning in Black students to the Honor System at a much higher rate, I sought to be the change I wanted to see.
First, I embarked on partnering with the research center at UVA to conduct one of the university’s first diversity climate surveys in the early nineties. We found that a social divide existed between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. While they were effective in class together, social networks were for the most part very separate and the lack of informal relationships across difference led to lack of trust. The lack of trust was such an issue that even students involved in the Honor System were not willing to talk openly about the racial inequities it faced, so I used group decision software to facilitate an anonymous virtual discussion in one of my M.I.S. computer lab classes. We were able to have a productive discussion to surface some of the key issues and top priorities for change and started the Multicultural Advisory Group as a result.
Change was very slow, and at times the problem even got worse over time as I watched the situation evolve as an alum while I served on the Board of Trustees for the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access) Fund. More than 25 years after graduating, I am very proud to say that the disproportionality in the numbers has finally disappeared with patience and investment over time by countless students, faculty and administrators
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Markets have globalized to a point where the customers and consumers of most companies are highlighting diversity no matter the part of the world in which they operate. In order to best serve those diverse consumers and customers, diverse employee populations must become an asset. While we all strive to empathize and truly understand the experiences of those who are different from us, no better understanding comes than from lived experience. Therefore, it is so obvious that diverse executive teams should reflect the diversity of both their workforce and their customer base.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
At Russell Reynolds we recently surveyed 150 large cap companies with an average of 50,000 employees, to identify those factors which fully mature DE&I functions had in place. These factors included:
- A Strategy — a data-informed strategy with a clearly articulated mandate and areas of focus
- Resourcing — a functional leader with a small team responsible for executing on that strategy
- Governance — a clear responsibility model that identifies roles for staff, leadership, councils and ERGs
- Accountability Mechanisms — metrics to measure progress and related mechanisms for accountability
- The fifth step I would add is “Tone from the Top” because without this support this work does not gain traction.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I have hope because before calm there is usually a storm. In the development of teams, the model that is often referred to is forming, storming, norming and performing. In some ways until this recent crisis, the DE&I function was in the formative stages, perhaps without a strategy or resourcing, but now we are clearly in the storming phase of addressing intergroup conflict with the hope that we will come out on the other end much stronger and able to create effect norms that include everyone in order to achieve the optimal level of performance.
To read the full Q&A, click here.