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The diversity industry is worth billions. But what do we have to show for it?

A new book out today, ‘Diversity, Inc.,’ looks beyond the corporate hype to reveal if there’s been any actual progress toward equality.


Fast Company | October 22, 2019



The Fast Company article, "The diversity industry is worth billions. But what do we have to show for it?" featured the Russell Reynolds Associates paper, "A Leader’s Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer." The article is excerpted below.

Diversity has become not only a buzzword, but an industry unto itself. Against a backdrop of social upheaval as evidenced by Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite, and the like, issues of diversity and its implications have touched virtually every sector.

In the corporate world, we’ve seen public pronouncements made by CEOs about their commitment to diversity, frequently on the heels of a specious racial incident within their company, followed by the high-publicity hiring of a diversity officer or consultant. Yet these efforts have rarely yielded meaningful progress in advancing diversity. In fact, they have sometimes backfired, as in the case of Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of inclusion and diversity.

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Corporations that have carried out some manner of diversity efforts have typically hired a diversity officer or a diversity consultant who conducts staff anti-bias training, which can be costly and which doesn’t guarantee success. When it comes to diversity officers, they may not be integrated into the leadership of the company, which means no matter how lofty their titles, they are unlikely to be able to effect actionable change. This too assumes that the company is clear and definitive about the change they seek. Newkirk cites a 2019 survey by Russell Reynolds of 234 diversity professionals at S&P 500 companies, which revealed that more than half said “they do not have the resources or support needed to execute programs and strategies, and only 35 percent had access to company metrics.”

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The diversity industry is worth billions. But what do we have to show for it?