We asked seven prominent diversity leaders across a multitude of industries to share one key message or words of advice for other companies as it relates to creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program. Here is what they had to say:
Yetta Toliver, Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Xerox: In order to drive change, an effective diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy needs to be integrated into your larger business strategy and include broad-based accountability. Accountability, starting with leaders, is essential.
Joel Dennison, Chief Compliance Officer, PPG Industries: It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, and people need to understand as they begin the journey that it’s about changing hearts and minds. That takes a lot of interaction with people at all levels of the organization, led by the CEO.
Edna Kane-Williams, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, AARP: It’s absolutely crucial that the CEO be engaged, that it be top of mind, and that they focus on it and talk about it often. If it is buried within the organization—underfunded, understaffed, gets a lot of lip service—that doesn’t get the job done.
Dion Harrison, Chief Diversity Officer, Elevate Credit: Don’t be shy about starting something small and getting as many people involved and engaged as you can, because it will build.
Paul Gimenez, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Guitar Center: Recognize that these pursuits are tethered to core aspects of identity. So, anticipate strong feelings on all sides. Listen and feel those emotions for the signals they provide but refrain from being reactive.
Anne Buchanan, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Guitar Center: Stay focused on this important topic and share what you learn along the way. Together we can learn from our successes and failures. I encourage those who are interested in enhancing DEI efforts to network and learn from those who are willing to share.
Moni Robinson, Chief Operating Officer, National Association of Black Compliance & Risk Management Professionals (NABCRMP): Listen and pay attention. Don’t pander—it is see-through, disingenuous, and inauthentic. If you’re going to do it, actually do it—put money behind it. Make sure you have people who are capable and passionate about it.