For the past few years, many companies have expressed a desire to improve their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in recruitment, hiring, promotions, marketing, and other areas. Some have gone a step farther and declared they would include the Justice component, encompassing the fullness of DEIJ as their new guiding force, helping to steer their internal and external efforts.
Search online, and you will find hundreds of companies hiring for DEI positions and creating various roles, committees, and ERGs. That’s hundreds of companies that prior to 2020, failed to see the need and value of a diverse, equitable, inclusive organization, driven by justice for all.
I’ve expressed in multiple blog posts and a few episodes of my business podcast (“Don’t Call It Small…Business”) my concerns about a DEI “bandwagon” effect and the implications. The peer and societal pressure to align and “be on the right side of history” will cause many organizations to publicly state what they internally are not prepared to follow through with, leading to negative outcomes.
Over the past two years we’ve heard organizations make claims and promises that they haven’t fulfilled. Pledges have fallen through the cracks. That’s what happens when you’re just checking boxes and it’s not authentic, and not a representation of your organization’s cultural fabric and values.
If your organization hasn’t been actively engaged in DEI practices for the 5, 20, 50, 100+ years it’s been operating, it won’t jump to it overnight. PR stunts have become the norm to position companies to be more desirable, in less time, especially when publicly-traded. That equals a recipe for disaster. As does rushing to do something out of guilt and shame, when you realize that you haven’t done enough.
In the fashion industry, there was a rush to appoint DEI executives to newly-created roles, and guess what we’re seeing? According to the site Business of Fashion, there’s extremely high turnover. The average tenure for a Chief Diversity Officer is about three years, while CEO tenure averages approximately six years. Why? Because most of the positions are created in haste, and they lack resources, defined goals, and support from the chief executive.
What’s happening in the financial sector?
Wells Fargo is on the hot seat. Again. This time, it appears that they too made a huge DEI blunder.
The bank is under federal investigation by the civil-rights unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office for conducting fake job interviews of minority candidates to satisfy in-house diversity guidelines.
As a client of Wells Fargo, I’m confident that their leadership team will guide them through these challenging waters, by first getting the help that they need to address the internal issues they still have yet to identify. We struggle most when we don’t know what we don’t know. Wells Fargo doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. But I believe that they will learn and apply what they lack to the benefit of internal and external stakeholders.
Read the Fortune magazine article to learn more. Ponder what Wells Fargo and other organizations must consider and do to genuinely lead with diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice as their guiding light. Let’s see the lessons and opportunities, and then put action behind the brain work.