The Reality of Solving for Diversity, Equity+ Inclusion in the Workplace. (Part 1)
(Please read when you have a moment + space to reflect.)
I've had this idea to write this blog for a while now. Each time traveling deeper down the rabbit hole to the point of not knowing where to start.
You know the feeling of being called to action because nobody else is stating what seems obvious to you?... Or maybe its just not being stated enough; or by the 'right' people(?)
It seemed that everyone (including myself) had chosen a narrative that was packaged to us by someone else deemed in higher regard who would eventually benefit (lavishly) from our sway.
Yet what do we get from this?
Another unnecessary jolt from the driving at the helm, through the visibly (to some) foreseen choppy waters.
We've already seen what happens here.
Some are tossed overboard swimming through the rough waters for a moment, before being consumed; 'good' or 'bad' reincarnated into their next life.
Others rock around in this blissful fuk'd-up cycle.
I say fuk'd-up only because, A) something about this experience is that unsettling. + 2) this blissful experience has always looked heroic from the deep shores; and now that we're on this ride we still believe the same things; or we pretend to because the ship is paying us a fraction of our worth. And that fraction we receive is just enough to get us by; paying our bills + likely enough towards our choice of escapism before we have to do it all over again. Compromising our ability to elevate to our most Natural enlightened selves for the approval of the drivers of this modern day ship called CAPITALISM.
Or maybe you're a part of the small percent who is getting paid exponentially times more than your work value; based on the unconsidered detrimental impact you have made on our society from your lack of awareness, consideration and greed.
It seems we hear the letters D+I (or D,E+I as of 2021) together now more than ever.
Most often from the companies we work for and/or buy from. Specifically in the last year there are more initiatives to ‘solve for' (or allocate funds towards) diversity + inclusion than I’ve seen in my lifetime.
"...I see some progress being made, but the rubber still gotta meet the road... What I learned with these companies, they talk a good game, they like to put out releases talking about what they're doing, how much money they're contributing... the programs of diversity... they're quick to put out a press release talking about how much their doing for the community, but we don't see no results. We're sick of that game to." - Ice Cube
fig 5.1: Brands on Trend
Why is this all of a sudden so important for companies?
Is This A New Problem?
For those who have been living in their own bliss, this problem is new.
Another reality being that this problem traces back to our countries foundation in slavery; and has only evolved to the current (limiting) traditional work structure most of us work in today. Even in the dream jobs of entertainment + sports.
Look at the level of diversity+equity from top to bottom on your favorite 3 sports teams.
Of the three major sports leagues in the U.S., the NFL, NBA, and MLB only one principle owner is black. Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Hornets.
fig 5.2: Brands on Trend Some More
fig 5.3: The Evolution of Discrimination + Exploitation (Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap)
It would be naive to think that DEI initiatives have nothing to do with retaining revenue and market share, based on all these reactions + lack of actions prior.
What was new was the fact that we we're all forced to sit still for much longer in ways we could have never predicted even a year prior.
(Much gratitude to the healthcare + essential workers.)
Slowing down led to more exposure + observation of life itself. And many of the harsh truths we've been able to neglect. This time we all had to witness the coverage of the unfortunate murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks; the senseless Asian hate attacks and so on... Causing a heightened awareness and uproar for most of what has been going on for centuries already.
(We also continue to witness our own black community killing each other, that seems yet to be addressed with the same determination... But that’s another blog.)
Why DE+I Now?
Every individual who works has a vested interest to make money for themselves + their own families.
Every corporation has a work structure, this work structure is also known as a power structure.
fig 5.4: The Power Structure
Generally, those who were at the top of the work structure before social injustice was trending are still in those same positions of power today.
This means the same people who were perpetuating these systemic issues are now the guides + gatekeepers towards the solution.
While many people below have proven to have a perspective much more connected to what would be an efficient solution; but those solutions happen to be in the opposite directions of the paved path towards promotion.
How much immediate change can we expect this way?
Top Priority: Modern Day Capitalism? or Diversity Equity+ Inclusion??
fig 5.5: Brands On Trend Some More+
What was most important to your leaders before DE+I was trending?
Do we now think that money, revenue + market share are no longer the top priorities for company leaders?
Realistically, what types of solutions can we expect?
Traditional solutions that fit inside the current structure? Or non traditional, which expand outside of what the majority of leaders are used to, there for care to fathom?
Lets consider the day to day roles, responsibilities, make up and general mindset of each level in the current working structure as we know it. Taking a deeper dive into some of the most typical reactionary solutions that we see; looking at the realities of those situations as well.
fig 5.6: Power Structure: Most Empowered
Who Are The 1%?
The 1% are the few at the top who are also known as the Board of Directors. Collectively they are responsible for setting the guidelines + supervising the activities of the company.
Their titles usually include Chairman, Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Human Resource Officer etc.
This group is well aware of revenue + market share. And (by design) they happen to be the most disconnected to the pulse of their employees as well as prosumers; outside of knowing 'consumer' spending habits used to exploit our youth + culture in order to achieve revenue goals..
The reality is that the success of these brands effects their pockets the most.
It makes sense that brands are reactionary vs. proactive; why change the game when your benefiting the most? This is how brands become 'blind sided' by problems that have been evolving in plain site.
In the history of Fortune 500 list (est. 1955), there have been only 19 black CEOs out of 1,800 chiefs (According to Phil Wahba of Fortune). Currently there are 5 black CEOs.
In 2020 these S&P500 corporations generated about 2/3 of the U.S. economy revenue at 13.8 trillion.
Since the outbreak of social injustice in the last couple of years many companies have added a seat to their board of directors table to be filled by new black members whose role likely emphasizes diversity and inclusion.
More than 80% of the country's 100-largest employers now report the racial and ethnic composition of their boards of directors or board nominees, according to a recent statement from advocacy group JUST Capital. Two years ago this number was 45%.
fig 5.7: Power Structure: More Empowered
The leaders are considered to be your Senior VPs, Vice Presidents, Senior Directors, and Directors.
As the 1% represent the team owners in sports; the leaders at this level across other industries would represent the coaches on the sidelines. Their roles and responsibilities are pretty much the same. To guide + oversee middle management through implementing the companies overall strategy in order to gain more revenue while aiming to finishing first each year.
The difference across other industries is how these leaders go about executing the game-plan.
When hiring a new coach in sports, they have the flexibility to surround themselves with other leaders and players that will help build and execute their 'new' system; while keeping the same overall objective which is to win while developing their players + coaches, (leading to a natural by-product of increased revenue when successful).
Since 2020, many companies have made a point to hire more black VPs and Directors, which seems to be a major positive being that these promotions were well-deserved a long time ago.
But what many fail to realize is that these newly empowered black leaders usually don't have the free reign to implement their own perspective in approach; or they fail to have their own perspective that would be more beneficial for more people involved. Usually for the following two reason...
1) Their job description is to implement the vision of those 'most empowered' above them.
2) Or because they grew up in an era of having to accept the ways of the system + having to operate *successfully in it in order to enrich their own families' lives, they are not able to see the new opportunities in doing things completely different.
*[Companies/Brands (esp.) need black leaders now more than ever; but ironically for different reasons than what 'the people' need them for.]
This happens to be another issue that we rarely hear about concerning diversity + inclusion in the workplace.
This should be considered much more in the conversation of lack of diversity and empowerment.
fig 5.8: Power Structure: Empowered(?)
Again. What do you think?
What do you think middle management is empowered to do?
At this level there are usually a few managing styles, below are the two common contrasting styles that are fitting for worst + best case scenarios...
Managing To Perfection
It's more prevalent at this level to care more about making a positive impression on the leaders directing you than it is to rationalize with the unconventional wisdom from any positions below. In other words managers in this lane tend to be more by the books and a lot less receptive to ideas that contrast with the current system in process. Over time this usually causes friction between managers + the free thinkers/ young talent who they are focused on managing. This happens to be where many of the game changing ideas are put to rest or never shared.
Managing + Understanding Both Sides
These managers tend to understand the Universal logic of the push back, but also realize the reality of the corporate structure + system...
Managers w/ this type of perspective are usually more open to supporting more progressive ways of working as far as they can control; which more than often results in a compromised solution chalked up as incremental change, if not confusion. Unfortunately this is the best case scenario for many visionaries.
This is where the young talent (+ managers) have to decide to either be ok w/ incremental change while deciding to fall in line. Or this is where they begin game planning their future outside the company, system, or industry.
Reactionary DEI Solutions
Since 2020, we've experience a new responsibility in corporate management.
With that real, uninterrupted look at the harsh reality of our nation + it's foundational history as it was trending, it guaranteed a range of many different reaction from pretty much any + everybody.
Sadness, frustration, anger, guilt... Determination.
As you continue looking at the power structure diagrams, please take a moment to consider who likely felt sadness, frustration, anger; and who likely felt and or expressed guilt?
In a corporation these human emotions are sought to be (controlled) managed. But only by those who are empowered, who happen to have their own set of emotions, which seems not to be considered beyond what they share.
To be clear, it's not about having malice intent. This is about the lack of awareness (+neglect) in important areas that comes at a cost of hundreds, thousands, millions and billions...
To Be Continued...
This got lengthy pretty quick. Please stay tuned for part 2.
Also you've likely noticed that there are questions throughout; please take time to reflect and consider your own conclusions. Feel free to engage with questions and/or comments.
Appreciate your 'time.'