2020 saw a conscious effort in the workforce to re-focus resources and efforts on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Many corporations and organizations put a microscope on the ways that they attract, engage, and retain their talent. Now, near the end of 2021, NEWaukee wanted to see where the state of DE&I is in corporate America.

“The State of DE&I in Corporate America” saw the following speakers discussing the realities of DE&I and where they see the future of the workforce heading in 2022:

The conversation hit on three major thoughts:

  1. What is currently being done to improve DE&I?
  2. What does progress look like?
  3. What should be our priorities and opportunities moving forward?

 

What’s Being Done

 

It’s incredibly important to not just pay lip service to DE&I efforts. Louise Paola Garcia says, “Sometimes I feel where the mark is being missed is with the follow-up actionable items. What are the things being DONE, not just simply discussed.” 

It’s not good enough to simply acknowledge DE&I issues. There must be next steps put in place so that the conversation doesn’t become stagnant. One of the ways to do that is by tracking data and metrics. 

Louise goes on to say that, “It’s making sure you have those metrics, that you’re putting out those [numbers], you’re tracking it; and that’s how you can really make change — by putting in a metric, measuring it, and executing on those actions.” 

 

Companies must ask themselves: Where are we interviewing? Where is our talent pipeline coming from?

 

On the other hand, changing minds can be equally as effective — Michele Matthai explains that Rockwell Automation began their DE&I efforts by creating resources to identify and dismantle biases and only began measuring data after the mindsets of employees had been changed. 

Another response from some companies has been to change the way recruiting is done. Brandon Stephens notes that Levi Strauss has been looking at geographical demographics of hiring: “We have to re-design our strategy to be encompassing of just, simply, geographic diversity.” 

Companies must ask themselves: Where are we interviewing? Where is our talent pipeline coming from? If organizations are only interviewing in a few geographical areas, there’s going to be whole sects of qualified candidates that will be left out of the conversation.

 

“Teams that are gender diverse are 25% more likely to outperform their peers.”

 

In addition, some companies have started treating DE&I as a business development resource. Jacob Ethel says, “From our vantage point, teams that are gender diverse are 25% more likely to outperform their peers.” He goes on to add that for racially diverse teams, that number bumps up to 36%. Jacob continues, “This is not only a feel good mission…If you want to be a top player, you want to be competitive, and you want to be at the forefront of any industry, you need to focus [on DE&I].”

 

What Progress Looks Like

 

Progress in DE&I practices can and should be tracked; identifying metrics and whether or not they’re working allows companies to understand what progress looks like. Progress can’t be a metaphor, it has to be a definable goal – one with concrete examples.

“We have to point out those obvious elephants in the room that no one wants to talk about. I Vanna White those elephants,” Louise Paola Garcia says. One of the largest elephants is the presence of hiring biases. Michele Matthai points out that until employees are educated about removing biases, able to see the best candidate stripped of any internal or external biases, there won’t be any real progress.

 

“We have to point out those obvious elephants in the room that no one wants to talk about. I Vanna White those elephants.”

 

It’s not just race and gender either. “What does representation look like for our disabled employees, for our veterans, for our working parents…What are the programs and policies that are negatively impacting these individuals?” Jacob Ethel asks. By leaning into areas where those gaps are found, new practices can be created. 

 

Priorities and Opportunities in DE&I 

 

Priorities in DE&I include finding diverse talent, committing to research, getting connected with groups, and staying in tune with emerging trends. Louise Paola Garcia says, “Imagine if today was the first day you started talking about remote work. You’d be absolutely behind on what’s going on around you and you’d get beat out by competitors day after day, so you have to stay on top of the research, you have to stay in tune.” 

Authenticity is also very important — Brandon Stephens says, “I think we try to be too nice about this topic at times. I think we sometimes dance around the true -isms and the true injustices that we may have experienced. It’s a very real topic and it requires some rawness and realness.”

 

“For students who have a teacher that looks like them, the percentage for them to graduate high school increases by 30%.” 

 

Finally, increasing diversity in leadership roles should be a priority. Louise Paola Garcia says, “For students who have a teacher that looks like them, the percentage for them to graduate high school increases by 30%.” 

Louise continues, “You can learn plenty about a company simply by looking at their C suite and board of directors and what that looks like, and if that leadership team is representative of what that community looks like where they serve. Too often that answer is a resounding no.”

Despite the roadblocks and challenging conversations, the ability to encourage real and lasting change is doable. As Jacob Ethel says, “To truly be versed on [DEI] is a continual learning, continual exercise; it’s a choice you make every day.”

NEWaukee’s fireside chat was moderated by Lauren Rock and featured speakers Jacob Ethel, Sr. Manager Advisory Services at PwC, Brandon Stephens, Sr. Director Diversity & University Recruitment at Levi Strauss, Michele Matthai, Director of Culture, Inclusion & Diversity at Rockwell Automation, and Louise Paola Garcia, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Strategy Manager at UPS.

Interested in continuing dialogue around conversations like these? Email Lauren@newaukee.com or join our Revival Community to connect with a nationwide network of leaders in talent, culture and engagement. Learn more here: https://www.newaukee.com/revival-community/

 

Other Notable Quotes:

“If someone in my organization feels like they are not being truly valued, we have a problem.” • Jacob Ethel 

“Many of our leaders need us in those rooms to challenge it…They need our authentic voice, not adding any filler words in between to make it sound nicer than what it is. It is what it is. This happened and we need to challenge it.” • Brandon Stephens

“No one has figured this all out…I’m meeting you where you are, but I also need you to meet me where I am.” • Jacob Ethel

“You’re not going to maintain a true diverse workforce on a transactional basis.” • Jacob Ethel

“It’s a lot easier to lean into the gender conversation than it is to the race conversation and not everyone is comfortable doing that, so it’s about continuing to push on that discomfort.” • Michele Matthai

“I call this work unlocking the door for folks who didn’t know the door could be opened. I kick the door in aggressively at this point in my career; I do it unapologetically.” • Brandon Stephens

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