We’ll soon get to see which companies are serious about diversity and inclusion and which are not
Fortune magazine announced last October that in 2021, it would publish a list of the most racially progressive companies in America. With its partner, Refinitiv, Fortune aims to make corporate diversity disclosure the new standard of doing business. To that, I say: Hallelujah, finally.
It’s the first time ever that a publication will shed light on this often hidden but vital piece of information, about the racial composition of corporations, and I for one, am excited to finally see if corporate commitments around Black Lives Matter and diversity and inclusion are performative or genuine.
Fortune’s CEO Alan Murray said, “What gets measured gets managed. Until companies commit to measuring and disclosing their diversity data, it will be hard to make progress.
David Craig, Refinitiv’s CEO said, “I believe the corporate world overwhelmingly wants to see change and understands how vital diversity is in building successful and sustainable companies. However, efforts to tackle minority under-representation in the workplace will fall flat unless companies first have an accurate picture of their racial composition. … We are encouraging companies to share minority-related measures of their workforce with the world — just as they already do with gender.”
Like many corporate commitments made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, through what will be known as the Measure Up initiative, Fortune and Refinitiv are doing their part to politely nudge corporations into doing the right thing. I imagine that with this deadline looming on the horizon, corporations are going to rush to hire black and brown people for the optics, but in my opinion, this would in fact render a disservice to these communities.
Yes, of course, I want to have more diverse and inclusive companies — that is why I am an antiracism advocate and educator. But, going out and blindly hiring on the basis of skin color could have devastating consequences. I have worked in companies where colleagues have overtly hinted that the only reason I got a particular job was because I am a black woman.
I was qualified for the task at hand and they soon figured that out, but what if I had been hired simply because I was black and I ended up not being able to do the job? That would have created a lot of cynicism, tension, and animosity — simply put, an unwelcoming and untenable working environment. That would in turn lead to negative stereotypes about the professional abilities of black and brown people.
Sooner or later, there would be a backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. So, companies should choose talent and even go so far as to creating and nurturing talent pipelines where they don’t exist. They can do so by funding educational and training programs at colleges and universities.
Visibility on diversity in corporations will also require that companies put more effort into retaining their black and brown talent. One of the main reasons that this talent leaves an organization is due to racism that manifests itself through systematic racial microaggressions and macro aggressions.
Corporations would need to extend whistleblower mechanisms to include racism and discrimination. These systems might already exist today, but their resources will have to be stepped up because investigating racism could prove to be much trickier than other offenses.
People usually deny that they are racist, so proving that they are will take an in-depth investigation to identify trends in behavior over time — i.e. repeatedly denying career advancement to black and brown employees for no valid reason, systematically talking over and cutting off black and brown people in meetings, and gaps in remuneration between white and black employees with identical tasks and qualifications on the same team.
Fortune magazine has good intentions and if this initiative is successful, black and brown people will have more opportunities to join these corporations. And because these companies might create and nurture talent pipelines, over time, the disparity in education levels in the United States, in particular, will be bridged. Thereby leading to a more equitable and equal society as a whole. It will take a long time though.
The Fortune magazine initiative is a good start. My concern however is that since companies will be self-reporting this diversity information, they might report data that puts them in a more favorable light. In the future, however, all companies should measure diversity and inclusion with the same, standardized measuring framework. This way, they are all on a level-playing field, and as such, comparisons between them are fair. For the time being, however, I am glad that Fortune magazine is doing this. Diversity and inclusion are key in moving toward a racism-free world.
Thank you for reading my perspective.
Sources: FORTUNE and Refinitiv encourage unprecedented corporate diversity disclosure and accountability through new Measure Up partnership, Cision PR Wire, October 26, 2020.