…But Can You Walk The Walk?

These chief diversity officers say the best diversity practices are about more than good intentions -- they're about measurable results. How does your company stack up?

more diverse, it becomes increasingly necessary for everyone in the organization to feel like an important and contributing member. Calhoun says it requires an organization to build a diversity competency. “I believe it is even more critical, the more diverse we become,” she explains, “because we then have to take all of these different people that we put in the workforce together and make sure now that we really do have teamwork.”

Challenges: In many companies, there is the perception that the business emphasis has become consumed with supporting minorities, which has left some feeling alienated in the workforce. “We had some backlash from white males last year,” explains Jarrells Porter, “because to them, it really seemed like we were focusing primarily on minorities and women.”

Solutions: Many organizations provide forums to discuss the concerns of those who may feel alienated by diversity efforts. “We have a white male forum that is facilitated by white males, and it provides them with an opportunity to talk about what diversity and inclusion means in a comfortable setting, where they are not intimidated by women or people of color who might say, ‘You’re racist’ or ‘You’re sexist,'” says Harris. “That helps because when they say ‘Well, we are not included,’ we say ‘Well, yes you are.'”

The participants did admit that for all their efforts, they and their companies are indeed on a journey to overcome the challenges and fine-tune their diversity agenda. They also agreed that diversity is everybody’s responsibility. “In a culture of accountability,” says Goodlett, “I am as accountable for my interactions with my boss as my boss is accountable for his interactions with me.” It is incumbent upon individual employees to seek out opportunities, investigating the companies that are serious about measurable track records on diversity. Career advancement, however, is also determined by how effectively candidates can build their communications vehicle within their company and industry. And by how well the match competencies with those required by their organization.

It will also be imperative for African Americans to build alliances and a business network of diverse contacts here and internationally as companies expand into emerging regions. Globalization, U.S. population shifts, and the bottom-line demands of business and industry will continue to drive and formulate how diversity and inclusion become a profitable tool for progressive organizations. Companies concerned about diversity conduct business well, taking their cues from the marketplace. “We have to continually change and evolve what we do to stay relevant,”says Adkins, “so that we can support our businesses and support the objective.” As a result, the corporate environment will indeed become more competitive, but it will also provide tremendous opportunities for African Americans and other minorities who are also flexible and able to stay relevant.

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