In the Mix

August 8, 2020

The Term Diversity & Inclusion is a Bumper Sticker

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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The term Diversity & Inclusion has served as modern speak for the entire diversity space. Like a bumper sticker… Sounds great but…

For the last decade, it’s how our society has greeted the effort to support, encourage, celebrate people from underrepresented groups. But the reality is that it exists as a shelter. A shelter that lives in the Human Resources function and never really sees the light of day.

Human Resources is an internal function. Diversity Outreach and Engagement is an external function. See the problem?

A Chief Diversity Officer should NOT be a Human Resources practitioner. This is why so many companies are failing miserably at connecting with underrepresented communities. While the HR function is useful for recruiting, recruiting achieves internal compliance and serves to check all the necessary boxes. We all agree that’s not the answer. That’s not engagement.

Now I’m willing to support what HR does provided HR comes to terms with what they are — Internal, compliance based. My hope is that they too embrace the element of education as a matter of diversity. Not as a one time thing, but as an ongoing, consistent commitment.

HR needs to focus on being successful at recruiting the next generation of C-Suite executives of color. Then successfully growing them into managers who become same said executives. True, commitment to development. We can continue to call this Diversity & Inclusion as long as we remove it from the bumper of society’s minivan.

But the effort so many of us have been talking about is putting Diversity Outreach and Engagement in practice. This is a practice that needs a dynamic leader…

The function of Diversity Outreach and Engagement doesn’t belong in HR. Better homes are Corporate Affairs. Corporate Social Responsibility. Corporate Giving or Corporate Foundations. All better homes. Or better yet, make it an independent function.

Most Chief Executive Officers come from the sales function. They know how to close the sale. They are engaging… they are outgoing… they can make their case. So I offer this:

Sales is an external function. Communications is an external function. Marketing has its pulse on the marketplace. These are the skill sets that will make for a CDO that can transform the function from a place holder to a true influencer.

I was not a place holder as a diversity manager. I showed results and made progress and after I left, it slowly tapered off and eventually ended. I was not in HR. I was in an external function. That’s why it worked. I made it work. It can be done.

I don’t want to see us give up a single role that can make potential progress. Particularly one that has the ability to have such an impact in underrepresented communities. We can’t stop taking any roles because when we do, we’re sure there is no representation for us. We. Must. Be. Represented.

Let’s keep this conversation going until we get to boardrooms and c-suites. But most importantly, let’s keep these conversations going until we can take progress to our communities.

More to come… stay tuned…