The never-ending struggle of Blacks for parity.
When The Network Journal held its first diversity roundtable on 2010, the very concept of “diversity,” with its race and gender association, was still struggling for respect. “Diversity, while still important in many organizations, has really descended on the priority list, where, perhaps publicly, people are talking about it, but where the rubber actually hits the road it’s not high on the priority list. If it doesn’t bring in some kind of revenue, or you haven’t linked it to the business, then it becomes even less of a priority,” said Sherry Snipes, at the time director of diversity and inclusion at The American Institute of Architects. Snipes, a participant in the TNJ roundtable, is now the founder and CEO of Global Diversity Collaborative and president and co-founder of the Diversity Academy Awards + Leadership Institute.
Yet, the shift away from diversity to the broader concept of “inclusion” had already begun. Jackie Glenn, at the time chief diversity officer in the Office of Global Workforce Inclusion at EMC Corp., described this shift during the roundtable. “When you hear ‘diversity,’ a lot of the time it comes with a negative connotation, like, ‘Here we go again; here comes the woman.’ You really want to move the needle and really light a fire under people so they know that it’s not just about race and gender. There is so much that makes up diversity: race, gender, religion, sexual orientation — just a myriad of things. Inclusion helps you to take a broader brush of the entire program. So more and more companies are shifting to include “inclusion” either in a title or in everything they do.” Glenn now is vice president of global diversity at Dell Technologies Inc.
Two years later, the shift to “inclusion” seemed complete. “Our goal is to build a larger, diverse pool of contractors who can build our projects safely, timely and on budget. The more contractors we have bidding on our projects, the greater is the downward pressure on pricing. So we don’t view this as an expense; we view it as an investment,” Heide Gardner, chief diversity and inclusion officer at The Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., said at TNJ’s 2012 diversity roundtable. In the years that followed and in recent
weeks, interviews and conversations with Black executives and business owners reveal frustration with what some describe as a dilution of the original intent to end discrimination against Blacks in the workplace, including in C-suites and board rooms, as well as in the procurement of public and private sector business contracts. Most acknowledge progress in terms of the number of Black professionals in corporate jobs — albeit predominantly at junior levels — and in the number of corporations and government agencies buying goods and services from Black-owned businesses. However, they contend, the evolution of “nondiscrimination,” “equal opportunity,” and “affirmative action” as they applied to Blacks from the 1950s through the 1980s to “diversity,” “diversity and inclusion,” and even “corporate social responsibility” has meant many more players competing essentially for the same opportunities. “The ‘inclusion’ word is brought in a lot more in recent years,” says Allen Love, executive vice president and deputy global anti-money laundering (AML) officer at TD Bank.
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