If diversity and inclusion is part of your daily work, you’ve undoubtedly spent countless hours building and justifying the business case for diversity for your organization and/or industry. It has become the mandatory first-step in building any successful diversity initiative, and rightfully so. We know that to obtain the necessary resources required to construct and implement, you must win the support of senior leadership and potentially a board of directors who are, more times than not, primarily motivated by ROI (return-on-investment). This practice is not uncommon and certainly not likely to change as practitioners around the world continue to strategize the most effective ways to advance diversity.
Tying diversity to dollars is a sound strategy for enticing decision-makers to invest in attracting underrepresented groups of potential patrons. Consider this:
If our diversity initiatives are going to drive the type of social progress that we want/need to see, then I believe we’ve gotten as far as the business case is going to take us. I mean, the charts, data, graphs, statistics and trends are well known and have existed for decades if not centuries in this country. In fact, James Baldwin’s I Am Not Your Negro documentary featured a segment highlighting a government agency’s research on the increasing buying power of blacks that predated the Civil Rights Era. Perhaps the business case is becoming more powerful and prevalent – but it is certainly no new phenomenon.
If we are going to realize true social progress, as a result of our corporate initiatives, we’ll need to shift some of the more meaningful aspects of diversity to the core. Our diversity initiatives should be about providing equal opportunities for career development internally and effectively positioning our organizations in the marketplace to attract talent of all shades and genders. They should be about creating a true environment of inclusion that values authenticity and differences rather than organizations who silently push for diversity and assimilation by over-valuing the “culture fit.” Our diversity initiatives should be openly and boldly combatting racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia and all other forms of oppression and discrimination that plague workplaces across the country.
As long as we are in business, profit and loss statements, emerging markets and the bottom line will always be a factor. However, if we are to effect genuine, positive change in our communities, organizations and society at large, we can’t have that factor as our guiding light. Incorporating the business case, while remaining dedicated to true social progress and equality, is a delicate balancing act that practitioners wrestle with daily. It’s on us to prioritize appropriately.