How to Improve Diversity in Corporate America

In the wake of Charlottesville, the issue of ‘diversity’ has gone beyond Silicon Valley and Google’s gender problem. The current impersonator-in-chief would rather divide than unite us, and the lack of moral and spiritual leadership in Washington feels like a void that will never be healed until someone steps in to fill in the gap. Thankfully, corporate America seems to be capitalizing on the opportunity.

The face of business is changing to include more expansive types of business, companies, and startups — in terms of both mission statement and executive leadership. These different types of business include not-for-profit companies and public organizations more interested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community development. Moreover, the geopolitical business scene is changing, and new business-related immigration policies stand to dampen our international competitiveness unless we continue to take a stand against white nationalism and supremacy — both in the U.S. and in our dealings with businesses and potential employees around the world. The future stands to be a bleaker and less connected place unless we fight for values like democracy and diplomacy — both in terms of public policy and on the business front.

Let’s examine three ways to improve diversity in the corporate America of the future — rather than the past.

1. Global Business & Digital Fluency. New digital fluency standards allow for a more global reach for U.S. companies. In a way, Marshall McLuhan’s prediction of “The emergence of a ‘global village; brought on by a new ‘electronic interdependence’” is finally coming true. The types of technology expediting this digital interdependence include cloud computing, automated data entry, machine learning, IoT, and online accounting services—allowing international business communication to happen from anywhere, as opposed to being confined to a brick-and-mortar office.

Recognizing that consumers now have a global — not merely national — reach will help companies reach more prospective customers. Adjusting their marketing personas to include a more culturally diverse array of buyers can only help companies expand their reach. One specific way companies can do this is via wider social media outreach. For example, reaching out to mobile users located in Asia can significantly increase global sales and position companies as more globally competitive — allowing them to stand out among their competition.

HR Inclusiveness Strategies

Before Charlottesville even happened, the alliance called CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion was born: the chief executives of these companies pledged to “continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion — framing diversity as a business opportunity, rather than solely a social issue.

This last point — diversity as a business strategy — recognizes the advantages of a diverse workforce: increased problem solving, recruitment, retention, creativity, and productivity; as well as enhanced performance, a strengthened brand, and an improved reputation. Competencies that build organizational diversity include communication, cultural self-awareness, knowledge of differences and culture, institutionalization of cultural knowledge, and adaptations to diversity.

One indicator of the corporate world’s quickly evolving stance on this issue is this New York Times story on the recent stand on the part of numerous CEOs and business leaders around the country: “Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at PepsiCo, said, ‘In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,’ he said. ‘These C.E.O.s have taken the risk to speak truth to power.’”

To answer this call for moral leadership, some companies are beginning to implement quotas and goals toward gender parity and better racial inclusivity. For example, Accenture recently announced the goal of a gender-balanced workforce by the year 2025, while eBay’s first Diversity Chief, Damien Hooper-Campbell, vows to improve the nature of conversations centered around diversity and inclusion by encouraging a “circle of trust,” as well as insisting that everyone’s voice is heard and valued — rather than merely a select few. Inclusion—as opposed to exclusion—attempts to understand every person in the room, and it emphasizes empathy, good listening, and communication, as well as helping bring teams of people together.

2. Changing Business Models

But, you might be asking, how do we bring people together more effectively? One answer is to change the traditional business model from one that values profit over all else to a model that prioritizes community, public welfare, and social justice issues — among other things. Although this shift in values does not necessitate moving from the private to the public sphere, one of the new trends in small business startups is social entrepreneurship: small private enterprises that seek to solve a longstanding social problem. One example of this types of company is Code2040, a nonprofit organization focused on forging opportunities for underrepresented minorities from Black and Latino populations, in particular. Because of the hyper-connected nature of commerce in relation to global relations these days, international geopolitics affect business and employment opportunities more than in the past. The U.S. pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA has certainly affected trade with Canada and Mexico, and speculation abounds of a possible trade war with China, due to tense global relations.

This type of tense international climate strengthens the prospects of small local businesses and nonprofit organizations focused on fixing regional problems. Prospective MBAs can also expand their interests to public administration roles, in the wake of such tense socio-political times. The culture wars may be inflamed, but this troubling fact is all the more justification to expand new technologies like IoT and sustainable company operations practices, in order to keep costs down and profits up. Recruiting skilled web programmers and cybersecurity analysts from leading tech markets like India and China can only help strengthen international relations as well as help to increase mutual cultural understanding.