Benjamin Franklin said “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” I took creative license and revised his sentiment:Workforce Diversity will not be achieved until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. #TRUTH
Diversity is awkward. Right after the last “From the CEO’s Perspective” leadership forum, I had a conversation with one of the audience members who told me how she wanted to ask her African American friend what it’s like being a black woman in corporate America, trying to advance her career . She didn’t ask because she was afraid. She was afraid she’d be judged and deemed racist for asking this question. And I don’t think she’s alone. That’s precisely what makes the issue of diversity such a polarizing subject. Sometimes, it feels like you just can’t win – the topic is personal and weighted too deeply in biases, conscious or unconscious. The key word here is personal.
The incredible panelists included:
· Orlando Ashford, President, Holland America Lines,
· Diane Neal, CEO, Sur La Table
· Jonathan Sposato, CEO PicMonkey, Chairman, Geekwire, Angel Investor
They dove into the deep rabbit hole that is diversity, inclusion and equality. The discussion took on a very personal and insightful tone with many important themes emerging. The one that stood out, which we can all act on immediately, is challenging yourself to be uncomfortable. “When you’re personally uncomfortable, you know something is working,” said Ashford.
Apparently, we are not uncomfortable enough – because it’s not working. Eighteen months ago, I stood on the stage and quoted research that said in US companies with 100 or more employees, the proportion of black men in management increased from 3% to a whopping 3.3% in 20 years (1985-2014). White women saw bigger gains from 1985-2000, from 22 to 29%. The number hasn’t budged since then. At that rate, it’s now estimated that women in the US will reach parity with men in leadership roles by 2085 – a mere 69 years from now.
It’s time to hurry up history because this is ridiculous and unacceptable. When CEOs and leaders make diversity a leadership competency, not just a priority, when they are committed and pay attention, things change!
Here are the Twitter highlights from the discussion:
Things were better for diversity (or seemed to be) in the late 90s. And it showed up in products. @jonathansposato
“The Coddling Of The American Mind”, @oashford says it’s the mindset that everyone wins, W’s & L’s are important lessons
Orlando Ashford drives home idea that companies must create a culture where people can show up as their true selves. @CEOpov
@jonathansposato won’t angel invest unless there is 1 female founder, talk about putting your money where you mouth is, kudos!
Find more leadership advice in my book “From the CEO’s Perspective” where I interview 20 top CEOs on how they are developing leaders in today’s world.
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