Celebrating Diversity by Advancing the Cause

April 6, 2020
By: Hattie Hill

As we battle a once-in-a-century pandemic, people all over the world are refocusing on what’s most important in life: the health and safety of our communities, whether through social distancing, support for our medical professionals or investing in our economic security. When this crisis is over, I hope we will continue to look out for one another. One way to do that is by committing to diversity and inclusion.

For 32 years, I’ve worked with major global companies like IBM, Southwest Airlines and McDonald’s to create diversity and inclusion, and gender equity programs. In that time, business leaders have often asked: What sets top companies apart? The answer is simple. Standout companies recognize that these programs aren’t window dressing; they directly affect a company’s bottom line and require the right resources to successfully implement.

In honor of “Celebrate Diversity Month” in April, I wanted to share some key elements of successful programs while also highlighting several companies that are ahead of the curve. Though most companies talk a good game, it’s important to turn to reliable sources for data and information. Two of the top names in the industry are DiversityInc, the leading assessment of diversity in corporate America; and Catalyst, a global nonprofit focused on advancing women in the workplace.

Here are three components that are essential for driving diversity and inclusion, and gender equity programs:

  1. Buy-in Must Come from the Top

Companies that implement effective diversity and inclusion, and gender equity programs aren’t simply checking off boxes; their senior leaders must be passionately committed to the cause.

Last year, under the leadership of CEO Randall Stephenson, AT&T earned the top spot on DiversityInc’s top 50 companies for its robust, multidimensional approach, which includes an unbiased selection and promotional process, working with a high percentage of diverse suppliers, and offering mentoring and sponsorship programs.

At AT&T, Mr. Stephenson plays an outsize role compared to his peers leading top multinational organizations, chairing the executive diversity council while also remaining actively involved in the company’s sponsorship programs and employee resource groups. What’s more, I can personally attest to Mr. Stephenson’s deep commitment to these principles. Over the past few years, we’ve worked closely with him via the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I), a program founded by Chairman Jakes that prepares former inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes for the workforce.

  1. Set Ambitious Goals

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” That’s true whether we’re talking about sales leads, revenue or building a more diverse, inclusive workplace. The first step in creating an effective diversity and inclusion, and gender equity program is ambitious goal setting.

Marriot International—No. 2 on the DiversityInc list—has been relentless in meeting tangible goals. Twenty years ago, the company’s Women’s Leadership Development set out to nurture the next generation of female leaders. Today, women comprise 54% of the company’s workforce and hold some of the most significant P&L and policymaking positions in the company.

Likewise, through Unilever’s Changing the Game, Unlocking the Future global initiative, which extended its 2013 Catalyst Award-winning initiative, the company set out to achieve gender balance across management levels by 2020. From 2016 to 2019, women in executive leadership positions increased from 15% to 33% and the share of female supply chain vice presidents also increased from 17% to 30%. Today, women hold 49% of management-level positions in Africa and 49% of management-level and above globally.

  1. Give Back at Every Level

Beyond creating a culture that nurtures a diverse workforce, top companies also invest in future generations through philanthropy and giving back.

Mastercard—No. 8 on DiversityInc’s top 50—actively supports underserved communities. Through its Center for Inclusive Growth, an independent subsidiary, Mastercard leverages its internal knowledge to bridge the gap between technology and social good, tapping its employees to work with charitable partners to create positive solutions. The company also operates Girls4Tech™, its signature STEM-focused education curriculum, where employees mentor girls age eight to 12, with the goal of supporting future careers in digital convergence, big data, fraud detection, cryptology and more.

Toyota is also a model for corporate philanthropy. The company partners with several leading nonprofits, including Girls Scouts of USA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Junior Achievement. In addition, Toyota leads a community initiative “OUT for Safe Schools,” partnering with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and more than a dozen major school districts to provide faculty and staff training on how to help LGBTQ youth facing issues like bullying, depression and alienation.

The best way to celebrate diversity and inclusion is to become part of the solution. Let’s connect with one another, not just in our offices but right now, when so many of us feel alone. Make a call. Send a text. Let them know you care because we should celebrate diversity—and each other—in good times and bad.


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