Every year seems to be the year when diversity and inclusion will finally include more than token gestures. And yet, it often feels like we are not making enough progress. We still have racial profiling, stereotypes in advertising, biases in law enforcement and unequal representation in leadership positions within corporations and government agencies.
That said, there are some hopeful signs that we might finally be moving in the right direction. We have elected more women of color to Congress (including the first Muslim Congresswoman). We have seen more diversity in films and some real progress in the boardroom. For example, twenty-seven percent of new directors at companies in the Russell 3000 Index were women during 2016-2018, up from 21 percent in the previous three-year period, according to an analysis prepared for Reuters News. In 2018 alone, the figure was 32 percent. So, what else can we expect to see for the remainder of 2019 in terms of further progress in diversity and inclusion? BCT Partners, a leading national consulting firm who has made it their mission to provide insights about diverse people that lead to equity, BCTPartners.com has identified some of the most likely trends to take place in 2019 and beyond.
1: More diversity in corporate leadership
Many companies are finally recognizing that increasing diversity at the executive level is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the financially intelligent thing to do. According to McKinsey and Company companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity, had on average 53 percent higher return on equity than those in the bottom quartile. Companies like Uber and Netflix have already started to make decisive moves in expanding diverse leadership and expectations are that many more companies will be following suit. Some organizations are even starting to tie compensation at the executive level to progress made in diversity and inclusion.
2: Increased inclusiveness in marketing and product development
With the success of movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians and TV shows such as Blackish, Hollywood has finally woken up to the fact that many people want to see more actors of color on both the big and small screen. And dividends have paid off in big in ticket sales and commercial endorsements. Products are also finally being developed with a multicultural market in mind. For example, Rihanna’s beauty line Fenty which markets itself as “beauty for all” has developed a line of skincare products including a foundation in 40 different shades to match almost every skin color.In the process, the company earned a whopping $100 million in the first 40 days of business. Other more mainstream cosmetic companies are scrambling to catch up and starting to launch more products targeted at a much broader spectrum of consumers rather than just Caucasian women.
3: Major shifts in recruiting and interviewing strategies
Unconscious bias is still an issue that recruiting teams must learn how to eliminate. One technology that has been developed might be able to help. There are many software corporations that have built HR tools using AI but one company in particular recognizes how it can be used to eliminate unconscious bias as well. As Ideal.com states, “AI for recruiting promises to reduce unconscious bias by ignoring information such as a candidate’s age, gender, and race. However, to avoid replicating any biases that may already exist within the recruiting process, the AI software vendor has to also be aware of those and take steps to remove clear patterns of potential bias (e.g., only hiring graduates from a certain college etc.)”
One example of a philosophical change in recruitment practices is starting to take place in Silicon Valley. Tech companies are looking beyond traditional degrees like computer science in order to expand their candidate pool. Whether it be interviewing candidates who taught themselves how to code or learned from a coding boot camp, recruiters are looking beyond degrees alone and starting to look at life and other types of work experiences. And with the unemployment rate at a 16-year low, all companies are going to have to cast a wider recruiting net as well as take an active role in encouraging minority students to look at tech as a career option.
4: Eliminating ageism in the workplace
Social media and technology are helping to shine a brighter light on some of the covert prejudices associated with race, gender and sexual orientation, leading some people to feel more empowered to speak out against and work towards dismantling discriminatory systems. Yet, ageism is alive and well and there doesn’t seem to be any moral outrage against it. Our cultural and structural disregard for older populations “is almost the last prejudice that we are allowed to have,” says Kathryn Lawler, the director of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging. This is ironic considering that aging is a universal human experience for those lucky enough to have the opportunity to grow older. However, as the global population ages, companies are going to have to start embracing older workers rather than ignoring them.
One company that has realized the value of older workers is BMW. As early as 2007, the German car manufacturer realized that the average age of their employees was increasing. Rather than ignore that, they took action. They started the “2017 project” which introduced one production line comprised of a workforce that accurately reflected demographics. Diversity in the workforce that includes people from different race and genders is now widely acknowledged to be a benefit as well as a necessity for companies that want to stay relevant. Why should diversity in age be any less important?
So, could 2019 finally be the year where diversity and inclusion take center stage? And could all organizations start making it a key strategic goal? Well, if companies start following the lead of Kaiser Permanente, we may just see it come to fruition. Through their National Diversity Agenda that focuses on building a racially diverse workforce, they have demonstrated how to make it work. Kaiser has no racial majority among its employees and nearly 60% of the staff are people of color. Let’s hope that other companies take a page from their playbook and that this is one trend that is here to stay.