Global Considerations When Developing a DEI Strategy

Sharmila Fowler-Pos
Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Echo Global Logistics


Many DEI leaders in multinational corporations tend to have a narrow view of diversity when it comes to developing global DEI strategies. These leaders define diversity within the context of their home countries, ignoring to a large extent, the need to develop a global mindset on this topic.  This practice can lead to challenges when deploying strategies around the world. This paper discusses how to create a global DEI strategic framework which aligns to the overall corporate strategy and at the same time, provides a structure for local markets to create their own DEI strategies.  Also, it provides key factors to consider from both the market perspective as well as the corporate headquarters perspective.  By following these recommendations, DEI leaders may be able to develop more impactful and relevant DEI programs across all their geographical markets.

The Global/Local Challenge

We live in an interconnected world where global workplace diversity is in fact very local, shaped by a myriad of factors which include historical context, societal norms, shifting demographics, evolving cultures, changing political conditions, and varying government policies.  While diversity has become a global imperative, it is important to note that the field of diversity management has its roots in the United States where it has been shaped over the years by the laws of this nation as well as the intentionality of business leaders.  For instance, in 1938, President Truman issued an Executive Order officially making discrimination based on “race, color, religion or natural origin” illegal for members of the armed forces. By 1964, the Civil Rights Act made it illegal for any business, private or public, to discriminate specific to employment as well as education. (Brazen, 2016).  

With close to 72% of diversity literature published by researchers in North America (Include-Empower, 2015), it is no wonder that diversity topics have typically taken on a U.S.-centric view focusing primarily on addressing race, ethnicity, and gender.  However, these perspectives do not necessarily serve organizations well when launching global DEI strategies as many of these topics are not key priorities once you cross borders. “People with disabilities” is not a protective class in many countries, for example. It is important to understand that diversity issues vary considerably from one country to another. 

Despite the rapid pace of globalization and international business expansion, many companies initially built DEI plans through a domestic diversity lens, typically overlooking global diversity issues.  These companies have grappled with how to build diverse and inclusive workplaces in their own backyards first.  When these same organizations are at a point to scale corporate DEI initiatives globally,  they encounter added complexity and challenges. When DEI strategies are deployed globally without consideration to local contexts, they may face resistance and can risk failing. This is because DEI professionals at corporate headquarters may appear as if they are imposing a “one-size-fits-all” DEI strategy on market leaders with no regard for local input.

It is vital to create a global DEI strategy that includes the range of diversity found around the world, both the visible such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, and so forth, and the invisible such as sexual orientation, educational background, language ability, thinking styles, geography, and cultural context. So, how does one develop a successful global strategy within a multinational corporation?  The best option is to create a DEI strategic framework, aligned with the overall business mission and corporate strategy and adaptable across multiple global cultures. This framework should enable each market to link to the corporate priorities while offering some level of local flexibility. Creatively speaking, it provides each market “freedom within the framework”.   

Corporate Perspectives: Key Considerations in Developing a Global DEI Strategic Framework

There are several factors that Corporate DEI professionals at home office must be mindful of to ensure success as they create a global DEI strategic framework. These are discussed below.

Maintain a global mindset

Everyone in the organization must open up to a global way of thinking, moving beyond their own familiar definition of diversity.  While U.S. diversity is heavily focused on race, ethnicity, and gender, there is a need to develop a broader diversity lens focused on operating globally. This lens should encompass an openness to recognize other cultures, customs, values, beliefs, and assumptions along with an expanded definition of diversity. Companies can support their employees in developing this global mindset using a multi-faceted approach. Some examples are suggested. Ensure that corporate-wide projects are comprised of global team members as this can begin the process of establishing trusted relationships across markets. Reinforce global awareness and education through company meetings, events, webinars, and trainings (virtual or in-person). Provide a list of resources and links to books, articles, movies, and websites that provide awareness and/or historical context for understanding aspects of diversity and culture. Experiential learning opportunities are also critical. Encourage employees to participate in ERG (employee resource group) events where they can join as allies and expand their knowledge base.  Also offer opportunities for employees to volunteer or attend external cultural and community events sponsored by the company or, if possible, allow them to experience markets first-hand through business travel. Consider one-on-one coaching in conjunction with such activities to empower individual actions and to create accountability. “When combined with other DEI efforts, coaching is a powerful and effective method that helps leaders and managers arrive at their own solutions instead of being told the steps they need to take” (Wilkins, 2020).

Ensure commitment across all leaders

While senior leaders at Corporate may be committed to DEI, local leaders may not all be on board, and if they are, they may be so at varying degrees. Therefore, it is critical that the CEO visibly champion the DEI efforts to showcase commitment, transparency, and accountability.  This can be accomplished not only internally but also on the corporate website and through other external communications. Additionally, DEI should be embedded throughout the organization, not just in HR. “If your leadership team sees D&I as part of the overall business strategy, not just a standalone program, they’re more likely to champion it—and communicate it clearly” (Galvanize, 2020). Finally, internal messaging should be consistent to maintain credibility and should convey the benefits that the organization is seeking to achieve through its DEI focus. 

To ensure alignment among the local markets, it is important to describe the current state of the organization and identify key opportunities that will positively impact the business through DEI perspectives and practices around HR, marketing, supply-chain, and community engagement. Market assessments will then establish baselines in addition to providing direction for local priorities. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be collected and analyzed to assess the employee experience from attraction to separation. Gender data by level for each stage in this lifecycle can provide a global view of the organization, however, it will also be important to review additional data to understand the current state of each market. For example, in the U.S., a race/ethnicity analysis should be conducted to provide a richer understanding of differences by race/ethnicity within the gender category. In some markets, it may make sense to track by age or company tenure while in some markets, there simply may not be additional data available. Employee pulse surveys and employee listening sessions can also provide additional perspectives and a deeper dive into understanding feelings of inclusion and belonging. Taken together, these insights can help build the diversity pipeline, reduce bias in employee development and advancement, and help drive retention. In addition to analyzing the employee experience, it is equally important to analyze customer and supplier data as well as community engagement from a DEI perspective. A thorough analysis of the current state and needs of all stakeholders helps to paint a holistic picture of DEI within the organization and will help inform the DEI strategy.  In addition to “talking the talk”, leaders should be “walking the talk” by modeling inclusive behaviors and personally expanding their own global mindsets. For example, a leader leaving work early to attend a child’s school event is modeling inclusivity toward working parents.  A leader sharing new learnings from a cultural event they attended is modeling a global mindset.

Create a governance structure to include everyone 

Ideally everyone in the company should “own” DEI but realistically, it is often necessary  to create a governance structure to create, manage, and track DEI progress. Senior leadership should actively lead the DEI governance structure which will signal a strong commitment from  the company to the DEI strategy. The structure should also include a diverse, cross-functional group of employees from all levels representing various market perspectives to ensure representation and buy-in.  This group should be able to review the current state of the organization, help define opportunities for improvement, and suggest impactful DEI goals and timelines.  This input can then inform the Global DEI Strategic Framework development.  Lastly, the governance  group should be able to track and measure progress.

To ensure inclusion and allow for everyone to feel that they can affect change, DEI initiatives and progress must be communicated regularly and must reach all stakeholders within the organization. Not only to home country employees but to everyone in all markets. While communicating, keep in mind cultures and languages, including regional dialects, to make certain that spoken and written communications are not misinterpreted. Be aware of nonverbal cues especially when on video calls or during in-person meetings. In addition, avoid idioms used in the home country. For instance, phrases such as “a breath of fresh air” or “with flying colors” are familiar to Americans but may be misunderstood in other parts of the world. Lastly, invite local leaders to shape the messaging and/or deliver it to their markets.

Local Perspectives: Key Considerations in Aligning Local DEI Strategies to the Global DEI Strategic Framework

After creating a Global DEI Strategic Framework, Corporate DEI professionals must prioritize support for local markets in the creation and alignment of their local DEI strategies. In doing so, it is critical for these home office professionals to consider the various market factors at play.  These factors include 1) definition of diversity, 2) stage in the DEI journey, 3) cultural values, 4) legal considerations, and 5) data consistency issues. [Figure 1, Local Factors that can Impact a Global DEI Strategy]

How does each market define diversity?

“How do you define diversity in your market?” should be the first question asked of local market leaders.  You will find out that there is no single definition of diversity, rather, multiple definitions exist.  Each definition stems from each leader’s subjective framework and is influenced “by national context, political agenda, dominant culture, religion, and gender, among other factors” (Global Diversity Primer, 2011, p. 217).  While gender is generally an underrepresented group globally, it is not the sole focus. Global diversity necessitates understanding the organization’s global reach and the cultural beliefs and assumptions associated with doing business in any given country, especially as it relates to their perspectives on diversity. For example, while race is a key topic in the United States as well as many other countries around the world, linguistic diversity is prevalent in Canada and Europe.  Religion plays a big role in the Middle East, Africa, and India while migrant workers (who introduce  language and other cultural differences) continue to be a priority in many Western European countries, as well as in Australia and New Zealand (Galvanize, 2020).  

It is also important to  understand the terminology used in various countries, especially around race-based diversity. For example, “People of Color” and now BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) which is gaining in popularity, are terms used in the United States. BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) is the term used in the U.K. and “Visible Minority” is typically used in Canada.  Understanding local definitions and terms will help in prioritizing key DEI initiatives locally as well as aligning to the overall corporate goals.

Assess where each market is in their DEI journey

To recognize progress, it is important to understand the DEI maturity of each market and where they are in their DEI journey.  Since global DEI is a complex process and highly unique at the local levels, market leaders must assess internal and external factors to determine where they are in the DEI continuum and move at their own pace.  Diversity MBA, a professional business organization, has identified seven stages that organizations move through in their diversity and inclusion journeys. These seven stages begin with indifference, and then move through incentive, information, indebtedness, initiatives, influence, finally reaching integration. (McElvane, 2020).  A study of 800 leaders around the world, conducted by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group (Ideas for Leaders, #625), identified five stages of DEI maturity within organizations: underdeveloped, beginning, intermediate, advanced and vanguard. Research findings indicated significant disparities in attitudes at both ends of the spectrum. For example, 77.2% of respondents in organizations with higher DEI maturity levels saw value in appreciating individual differences compared to only 40% in organizations just beginning their journey (Ideas for Leaders, #625).  DEI professionals must be attuned to each market’s stage in the journey keeping these types of models in mind and then support these markets where they are with the appropriate tools and resources. 

How do cultural values influence DEI focus and progress?

The concepts of DEI are much more understood and accepted in countries with high individualistic cultures like the U.S., Canada, W. Europe, and Australia where greater value is placed on individual achievement and uniqueness. The American proverb, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” illustrates the concept of individualism and the importance of speaking up and standing out. In contrast, collectivist countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Japan encourage group membership and conformity and may be less willing to embrace many concepts of DEI. The Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” highlights collectivist thinking and the importance of “sameness”.  

An HBR study on corporate culture assessed over 12,800 responses from around the globe on eight styles of organizational culture: learning, engagement, results, authority, purpose, caring, order, and safety. These styles were then mapped onto two dimensions: how people respond to change (flexibility vs. stability) and how people interact with one another (independence vs. interdependence).  While caring and results were the most salient styles overall, the study found remarkable differences between countries (Cheng, J. Y.,  2020). 

“Firms in Western Europe and North/South America were inclined toward a high level of independence. Western European and North American firms especially focused on results, goal-orientation, and achievement. Teams in South America showed a propensity toward fun, excitement, and a light-hearted work environment. In Asia, HBR found many firms that prioritized order through a cooperative, respectful, and rule-abiding workplace”  (Galvanize, 2020, p. 1).  

These findings point to the need to adapt strategies and processes across markets. A DEI approach that is highly successful in one market may not yield the same results in another.

What is the legal environment in each market?

Each global market has different rules and regulations around diversity. Numerous privacy laws exist in many countries limiting access to collecting and storing data about employees.  Countries such as the U.S., the U.K., South Africa, and Japan permit positive or affirmative action. However, there are limitations to these laws as companies in some markets like the U.K. cannot mandate diverse candidate slates (DLA PIPER, 2020). Many markets require legal reporting by gender and disability. France passed a law in January 2020 that obligates companies with at least 20 employees to ensure that 6% of total employees are people with disabilities (Shepard, 2019). In addition, not every diverse group has the same rights across markets.  For example, same-sex couples are criminalized in 73 countries (Galvanize, 2020). Working closely with the legal teams in each market is essential as laws continue to change.

Challenges with data consistency across operating markets

Data can vary across markets, thus, it is important to ensure consistency of data when rolling up to Corporate for the purposes of creating corporate scorecards and other tracking initiatives. For example, levels within the company may differ in title or rank across markets. A level 5 position in the U.S. may not be equivalent to level 5 in Australia. A VP in one market may be the equivalent of a senior director in another. Reaching out to local HR leaders can help resolve these types of data disparities.


Diversity issues vary greatly by market, making it important to allow for the localization of DEI strategies in order to reflect different cultural contexts. This can be accomplished by creating one global DEI strategic framework and allowing for multiple strategies to emerge across markets. Given that markets are at different starting points in their journeys, it is also important to have the desired outcomes in mind for the organization globally and locally.  Each market can then craft their own DEI work plans which ultimately ladder-up and align with the corporate strategy.

As Corporate  DEI professionals work with global markets to align strategies to the global DEI strategic framework, they should continue to expand their knowledge base by listening rather than dictating to local markets. They should be able to provide expertise, strategic alignment, and support while in-market leaders should offer market knowledge and sensitivity to local issues.  Market leaders should be able to share how their own markets define diversity, assess where they are in their DEI journey, provide cultural values and context, discuss legal issues, and resolve data consistency matters. These market leaders should be committed and aligned with senior leaders at Corporate on the importance of DEI, however, they need to own their narratives and be empowered to act in ways that make sense locally.  Lastly, all employees should be updated regularly on the company’s DEI progress, feel empowered to advance DEI within the organization, and be encouraged to participate in DEI education and/or initiatives to advance the cause and impact the organization.

A well-designed global DEI strategic framework which is aligned to the overall business mission and corporate strategy and allows for local DEI strategy customization should be supported by leaders and employees around the world and will certainly contribute to a sustainable competitive advantage.


Brazen. (2016, February 17). A Brief History of Diversity in the Workplace [infographic]. Brazen.

Cheng, J. Y. and Groysberg, B. (2020, January 8). How Corporate Cultures Differ Around the World. Harvard Business Review.

Cox, G. and  Lancefield, D. (2021, May 19). 5 Strategies to Infuse D&I into Your Organization.  Harvard Business Review.

Global Diversity Primer (2011, Chapter 14). Diversity Best Practices.

DLA PIPER (2020, December 18).  Be Global: Global employment law trends and predictions at the close of an extraordinary year.

Galvanize (2020, March 12). Achieving a Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategy.

HR Grapevine (2019, June 17).  Implementing a Global Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Ideas for Leaders. (#625). Diversity and Inclusion: Key Success Factors for Today’s Companies.’s-companies (2015, June 3). Best Practice Global Diversity Management. (2015, June 25). Does Your Organization Have a Global Diversity Strategy?

McElvane, P. & Ashton, D. (2020). Seven Stages of Inclusion (7SI) Maturity Model. Diversity Business Review.

Shepard, L. (2019, December 4).  French Law Requires Companies to Employ Workers with Disabilities. SHRM.

Steele, Rebekah (2012, May 30). Establishing a Global Framework for Diversity and Inclusion.

Steele, Rebekah (2012, June 8). Balancing Global and Local Interests in a Multinational D&I Strategy.

Wilkins, LaTonya (2020, March 27).  How to use Coaching to Support Diversity and Inclusion.

Figure 1

Local Factors that can Impact a Global DEI Strategy

Fostering Inclusion in an Extreme Remote Work Environment

Miriam Lewis,
Chief Inclusion Officer, Principal Financial Group
Proprietary and copyright; Diversity Business Review, A P&L Group Brand.


The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly accelerated the trend in utilization of remote work in the U.S., an abrupt transition that presented challenges for employers and employees. This paper discusses the challenges associated with creating and maintaining an inclusive work environment during a time of uncertainty and transition—a period the author refers to as an “extreme remote work”—and discusses the longer-term implications for inclusion efforts in organizations where work is done outside the traditional office setting. The paper draws on the research and observations of Principal®, a global financial services company with over 17,000 employees, and analyzes the findings reported publicly by other organizations. We conclude corporate inclusion efforts are equally, if not more, important in the extreme remote work and “normal” remote work environments. Employees working remotely have a strong desire to remain engaged with their employer, and they benefit from initiatives to foster professional networking and development. The needs of employees have shifted during the pandemic and will continue to shift, and employers must adapt accordingly to tap into competitive advantages offered by effective utilization of remote work.

Fostering Inclusion in an Extreme Remote Work Environment

Inclusive organizations strive to provide a respectful working environment where all employees feel welcomed and have an opportunity to thrive. Once synonymous with ‘office environment,’ the idea of a working environment has been shifting for decades as companies expand their global footprint and more employees do their work outside of a traditional office setting. 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly accelerated the trend in remote work, stretching it to limits beyond what many companies thought their workforces could accommodate. Millions of workers were hurled into an unexpected remote work environment, with employees experiencing the stress and financial hardship of a pandemic; a lack of access to normal support systems like school and childcare; the cancellation of vacation plans and public entertainment options; and other factors that complicate the effectiveness of a virtual work environment; thus making it an extreme remote work environment.

This radical change of environment influences the way employees’ network, collaborate, innovate, and engage in professional development. Companies must continue to adapt to the current work environment, and plan for maintaining a culture of inclusion in a traditional – but greatly expanded – remote work environment once the pandemic ends. 

Rise of extreme remote work

Remote work has been on the rise for years, but never at the speed or scale ushered in by the pandemic. In 2016, about 22% of American workers (and 43% of American workers with advanced degrees) said they worked from home at least some of the time (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). By late April 2020, 63% of American workers said they had worked from home at some point during the pandemic (Gallup, 2020).

For many companies, the transition was all-encompassing. At Principal , more than 95% of the organization’s global workforce was working from home as of March – a transition that largely occurred over just three days. Most of those 17,000 employees, located in 25 nations and territories, have not set foot in an office environment since.

Senior leaders at Principal and elsewhere were understandably concerned about the potential impact of the transition on employee morale and sense of inclusion, productivity, and ability to continue serving the customer. As the weeks and months passed, early indications were encouraging – productivity remained roughly the same or, in some cases, even increased as employees demonstrated significant resilience. 

In a survey of our global workforce in July 2020, 9 out of 10 respondents said Principal continued to serve customers well. Internally, this statistic speaks to our laser-focus on continuity of service, while also testifying to prior investments in people, processes, and technology that help us adapt to change. But the effectiveness of remote work here at Principal tracks more broadly with findings from Gallup, released prior to the pandemic, that “remote work not only improves outcomes and employee branding but is a policy that the most talented employees desire.” 

But it is unclear whether productivity and job satisfaction will persist as the extreme remote work environment continues. Although many companies have been impressed by the resilience and productivity of their employees during these early months, some cracks in the model are beginning to surface, including:

  • Employee burnout.
  • High stress and low morale, especially among certain areas of the workforce.
  • Challenges on-boarding new employees.

These challenges may increase as the current remote work environment continues. And even after the pandemic subsides, the work that companies do today will help to prepare them for any future crises that threaten the support systems for their employees. Most experts agree that the post-pandemic “new normal” will include far more remote work than we saw at any time prior to the crisis. 

Inclusion during this crisis: what we’ve learned so far

As a company with a strong commitment to inclusion, Principal has adapted many of our initiatives to support employee engagement and retention during this unprecedented time. We’ve also stepped up our communications with employees, adopting tools that allow us to survey the workforce more frequently, track responses in real-time, and tailor our responses accordingly. 

While it’s too early to know definitively whether our efforts have had an impact on retention rates (Principal has over 17,000 employees in offices in 25 global locations), we have seen an increase in employee engagement and satisfaction, and we have learned several lessons about how to support employees in the virtual work environment.

Employees who are working remotely want to be engaged.

Although we’re all going through this crisis together, social distancing measures have us feeling farther apart both physically and socially. Diversity & Inclusion teams can play an important role in sustaining community and helping employees adjust to the current reality. At Principal, we’ve traditionally hosted a number of cultural celebrations, courageous conversations, and other employee events that promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. These events have usually been held at one of our office locations, with employees in other global locations able to engage via live video feed, video recording, intranet articles, and other digital solutions. 

With the onset of the pandemic, we pivoted to a series of virtual events—on inclusion topics such as mental health awareness, race and social equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. One example is our Courageous Conversation following George Floyd’s death, initiating good conversation and employee response, including this anonymous employee survey response:

“This was the best event I have attended at Principal in 5 years. If we want to remain relevant to our customers, employees and partners we NEED to continue to have these kinds of conversations, and truly take them to heart.”

We also broadened our outreach about these events: we extended invites to all our employees worldwide, rather than promoting events primarily through our Employee Resource Groups. Our senior leaders readily engaged as presenters and were actively involved in promotion.

Overall participation in these events increased more than 500% over the prior year, with over 96% of attendees saying they learned something new, and more than 85% saying they would recommend the sessions to others. In addition to the changed marketing approach, we attribute the increase in employee participation to the need people have for an outlet to listen, learn and share their opinions; a way to feel heard and included. The lesson here is that employees want to be involved just as much, or perhaps even more, when working remotely and especially in an extreme remote work environment, as when working in an office environment. 

Employees need opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another.

In the midst of the pandemic, Principal decided to stay the course with a major inclusion initiative that we’d been planning for months: a Global Mentoring Program. This 10-month program is open to all 17,000 of our employees around the world and represents a major step in formalizing and expanding our mentorship programming at Principal. Since launch in July 2020, more than 2,000 employees are participating in the program, representing 12% of our global workforce. Numerous studies indicate the importance of mentorship and intercultural collaboration in fostering employee growth, business innovation, and heightened company performance. In a virtual/remote work environment, the program has an added benefit of helping to alleviate feelings of social isolation.

We’ve also implemented unconscious bias training. These sessions are particularly valuable in an extreme remote work environment, mainly because our leaders are facilitating dialogue with employees and implementing practices to mitigate bias. We are checking our assumptions, working more inclusively and ultimately, making better decisions.   

The extreme virtual environment increased the number of employees needing support. 

The current environment highlights employee groups that may need extra support at this time, including people living alone; single parents; working parents; people with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses; people with barriers of language or technology; or people with disabilities. Even social extroverts may be at risk, as the office environment was an important opportunity for social interaction.

At Principal, about 40% of our employees have school-aged children – a revealing data point, as parents around the world navigate the challenges of teaching their children or getting their kids back into schools.  Some of our employees fell into the category of essential workers. Everyone was impacted no matter your background or experiences so identifying those key stakeholder groups has enabled us to listen more intently, ask more focused questions, and make tailored adjustments to policy and practice, mainly enabling more flexibility.

Next steps and pivoting post-pandemic

As the work environment changes, so must our strategies for fostering inclusion within our organizations.  We’re committed to accountability in these efforts and by tracking our progress, we can ensure appropriate attention and resources behind the policies and actions with the greatest potential to make a difference. Our initial experiences at Principal suggest that employees are ready to dive in – to remain engaged, to learn and grow, to collaborate across borders and boundaries. What they need is for their leaders to listen, to adapt, to model flexibility.

We surveyed our global workforce in mid-August, and across-the-board improvements in every area that we measure for our engagement index. As compared to the same time in 2019:

  • We had a 13-percentage point increase in employees who said they are extremely satisfied with Principal as a place to work (86% in 2020 vs. 73% in 2019).
  • We saw a nine-percentage point increase in employees who would recommend Principal as a great place to work (85% vs. 76%). 
  • We had a six-percentage point increase in employees who would stay at Principal if offered a similar position with comparable pay and benefits, at another company (75% vs. 69%).
  • 87 percent said they were proud to work at Principal, an increase of five percentage points over 2019 (87% vs. 82%).

Additionally, we asked employees an open-ended question: “What matters most in keeping you engaged at work every day?” Then we shared the responses with fellow respondents and allowed them to vote on the responses with which they agreed. We received 12,500 responses and employees cast 78,500 votes to prioritize those responses. The top themes that emerged were:

  • flexibility
  • having a great leader and team
  • feeling trusted, valued and respected
  • having the opportunity to do challenging and meaningful work.  

These responses, we believe, outline a roadmap for inclusion in the workforce today and of the future. Companies that successfully navigate this transition from the pre-pandemic “normal,” to extreme remote work, to a future that is almost certainly marked by a more sizable remote workforce, will have competitive advantages:  greater ability to collaborate and move projects forward; a larger and more diverse talent pipeline, less bound by geographic considerations; more satisfied employees, who have greater flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives; and a workforce that collaborates across geographic, cultural, and organizational borders. 

Miriam Harris Lewis is chief inclusion officer at Principal Financial Group®. In that role, she has global responsibility for designing, leading and implementing strategies that foster a more inclusive workplace, increase employee performance, drive better outcomes for customers, and ultimately improve business results.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily. (2017, June). On days they worked, 22 percent of employed did some or all of their work at home in 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from

Gallup. Adam Hickman, Ph.D., and Lydia Saad. (2020, May). Reviewing remote work in the U.S. under COVID-19. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from 

Case for the “D” in Diversity to be included in the ESG Equation

Pamela A. McElvane, MBA, MA, MCPC
Chief Engagement Officer (CEO)
P&L Group Holding Company

Diversity MBA Media
3I Research Institute
Diversity Learning Solutions


There is increasing evidence that the link between Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is a foundational part of companies’ performance.  Measuring diversity, sustainability and societal impact is becoming a central part of companies’ investment portfolios. Moreover, there is substantial empirical evidence that suggests diversity is a critical function in corporate performance results, therefore should be more than a consideration in the ESG equation.    

 The basis for this article is that “D” for Diversity should be recognized as part of ESG when prioritizing considerations as companies do for governance, environmental and social investments.  How companies perform in the execution of their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and strategies, has a direct impact on its retention and sustainability of its diverse workforce, and talent pipeline.  

The Business Case

The inspiration to further investigate why diversity, the “D”, should be a part of ESG, came to me after I read Alan Fleischmann’s article, …”How investors can support diversity with their dollars.”  Many investors already consider a wide-range of issues when considering how to deploy their funds, from how corporations respond to climate change to how they approach health and safety policies or worker protections”, says Fleischmann. 

Current events are one of the many aspects investors make when considering risk. Therefore, we can assume that the social and racial issues coupled with the pandemic in the past year have heightened the national consciousness around systemic racism. The reality is that if we want to change the systems that drive inequities, bias, and prejudice, then considerations of race and diversity inherently should be included in the way we choose to invest.

From an investment perspective, financial and diversity research demonstrates the financial benefits to companies that emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as part of their business strategies.  For example, the research from the DMBA Inclusive Leadership Index (ILI) identified more than 300 companies that made significant progress when they have advanced over 40 percent of women and people of color into leadership roles.  Additionally, the Pipeline’s Women Count 2020 report found that FTSE 350 companies with executive committees of at least 33 percent women had a net profit margin over 10 times greater than companies with no women on their committees.

It is important to understand how investors factor DE&I into their investment analysis. Companies have investment teams evaluating their portfolios for risk as it relates to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.  And it is the Diversity executives under the auspices of the human resource function, that are left to assess the cultural environment of diversity and inclusion. Prudent companies already assess DE&I as sector agnostic and include it under both social and governance pillars of the ESG equation.  

In DMBAs 2021 ILI annual survey, we asked over 300 companies how and where they are factoring DE&I into their risk assessments of ESG. It was further validated that DE&I strategically drives corporate social responsibility (community investments); impacts supplier diversity (diverse supply chain); and drives board diversity (gender and diverse representation).  Thereby, public commitments made by CEOs to comprehensively embed DE&I into their overall business strategy requires a shift in thinking.  The results of their decisions will ultimately show up in their overall brand and reputation performance in the market.

ESG Investing

Understanding the basic principles of ESG investing further makes the case as to why DE&I should be a part of the equation.  There are very specific elements in each category that require consideration from DE&I.  So, the question remains, why not formalize it?  

Environmental refers to investing in the guidance, improvement, and sustainability of our environment.  It includes but not limited to the following concerns outlined below:

  • Climate change, 
  • Biodiversity improvement,
  • Energy efficient technology,
  • Waste management,
  • Water scarcity reduction, and
  • Air and water pollution.

While there are so many more areas to engage in environmental investing, it’s the basic concept of caring for human conditions and humanity.  It may appear the connection to DE&I is indirect, but the correlation to diversity and inclusion is the framework of our society and the link to humanity.

Social Investing refers to the principles or guidance to improve social sustainability as it relates to, but not limited to the concerns below:

  • Human rights, health, and safety,
  • Serving to fund underserved and under-represented communities and institutions, and community relations,
  • Employee engagement and relationships, and
  • Gender and racial diversity.

The inherent connections of social sustainability to diversity, equity, and inclusion are easier for companies to identify. For example, this is where employees engage in the activities that deliver the outcomes that make contributions to the community through employee involvement.  Based on the 2020 DMBA ILI participating companies contributed more than $200B to community sustainability initiatives.  This is more than a detached corporate initiative as it is an integrated part of the DE&I strategy execution.  Thus concluding, DE&I heavily influences how decisions are made in social investing.

Corporate Governance refers to the interests and concerns that impact shareholder values and alignment with company goals as it relates to, but not limited to concerns are listed below.

  • Tax strategy,
  • Execution remuneration,
  • Donations, political lobbying, and philanthropy,
  • Board diversity and structure,
  • Codes of Business Conduct, and
  • Risk and crisis management.

Corporate governance is how companies and organizations examine themselves for alignment through their policies and practices.  Governance data has been compiled substantially longer than environmental, sustainability and diversity; such that, the criteria for good governance has also been discussed, just through different perspectives.  Harvard researchers Gompers Ishii and Metrick calculated a governance index (G-Index 2003) that measured 24 governance provisions, however, did not include the impacts of diversity.  Today, the G-Index has diversity implications around representation variations.  However, the importance of the G-Index is that it ranks the good governance of companies.

A company that practices good governance can be characterized by a diverse board that is inclusive of women and people of color, transparency when it comes to financial reporting, and executive compensation that is tied to performance rather than arbitrary metrics.

Situation Analysis

We do, however, need to answer the question: why is ESG investing important for companies?  There are many kinds of arguments regarding the benefits and challenges of ESG investing.  The focus for this paper is on the key elements that align with diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

 According to Brian Chan, author of the Ultimate ESG Guide, companies with high ESG ratings are more crisis-resistant and achieve better performance marks on average than their peers.  Equally important, if a company shares your values and delivers socially responsible initiatives, then the community becomes an asset.  Nielsen’s research Diverse Intelligence Series (2015) found that nearly three quarters of millennials would pay a surcharge for sustainable goods and services.  And that GenZs are the fastest growing conscious focused group who are more ethically driven in their purchases.  As socially responsible purchasing becomes a critical factor in consumer decisions, it will require investors to pivot to manage future projects that could favorably position them as catalysts for change.  

Companies’ desire to have diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts transcend their organizational culture, but like anything else, it just does not happen without effort.  Historically, companies have struggled on how to quantify the financial impact of DE&I, but it remains the most popular business function. This means, oftentimes, DE&I is like a pillar they pull out of the box when needed.   

 Unfortunately, companies’ make decisions that are influenced by the social environment and community disarray, primarily, to ensure there is no reflection on their reputation.  Thereby, it is no surprise that discrimination and class action lawsuits have increased according to Equal Employment Office of Commission (EEOC).  For this reason alone, it is a business imperative for diversity, equity, and inclusion to be a major consideration in the ESG equation.  

Exploring why the “D” for Diversity should be a part of the ESG equation requires greater explanation.  As mentioned earlier, Diversity is in closer alignment to the “S’ for Sustainability and to the “G” for Governance.  With that said, let’s examine in greater detail the implications of sustainability and governance as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are key indexes that rank and provide scores around the strength and weaknesses of how companies perform.  Harvard chronicled many researchers that have developed criteria to measure the sustainability and governance performance of companies.

Understanding what sustainability means for businesses today has become increasingly important to all sizes of companies as investors take an approach more aligned with values of people and not just profit margins.  DE&I has a direct alignment to sustainability through corporate socially responsible investing, influencing how talent management develops, retains and advances people of color and women, and creating equity within the practices, and policies.

The metrics for a long-term sustainable workforce are representation of diverse leadership and management, retention, low churn, equitable advancement of women and people of color, along with quality of culture.  These are just a few of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that must keep pace with the ever-changing workforce.

 The research from the DMBA Inclusive Leadership Index (ILI) provides further explanation and connection as to why Diversity “D” should be a part of the ESG equation and not just a consideration.  The DMBA ILI is conducted on an annual basis.  Over the past decade more than 30,000 insights has been compiled on how DE&I influences the structure of how organizations implement and execute strategies. More than 400 companies participate on an annual basis answering 240 survey questions on their DE&I and talent management strategies. 70 percent of the companies are multinationals with an average employee base of 35,000; and 30 percent of the companies are large regionals with an average employee base of 5,000.  According to the DMBA ILI below are key insights on how companies connect diversity to workforce and community sustainability and governance.  These insights are inclusive but not limited to:

  • 82 percent of companies participating in the index have both diversity and talent acquisition strategies directly aligned to the overall business goals of achieving a diverse workforce.
  • 85 percent of companies measure the effectiveness of inclusion and engagement within their environments.
  • 85 percent of companies train their workforce to support their principles of good conduct, respect of differences and more.
  • 71 percent of companies assess bias within their organizations, yet 36 percent of companies are implementing strategies of change.
  • Average employee retention among participants in the index is 83 percent in 2020.  Indicator of workforce sustainability.
  • In 2020 100 percent of participating companies’ CEOs have made a commitment to increase diversity, employee engagement and enhanced presence in the community.
  • 68 percent of companies participate in minority national supply chain programs with an average investment of 8 percent of their overall investment.
  • 87 percent of companies include incentives that influence behavior to execute diversity strategies.
  • In 2020, approximately $150B was invested into underrepresented communities for the purpose of creating social and sustainable communities.
  • 81 percent of company boards have diversity goals.
  • 85 percent of boards have intentional initiatives on diversifying their boards.
  • 89 percent of companies have DE&I strategies as part of their overall strategic objectives integrated across business functions.
  • 87 percent of companies require leadership accountability to ensure DE&I initiatives are executed.

Recommendations & Considerations

What we know is diversity is a growing platform for inclusion for investors when considering strong sustainable environments and determining risk.  Today, diversity executives are part of many conversations and decisions on how company strategies are executed.  In fact, if it were not for diversity executives’ influence, the notion of inclusion, belonging, and equity in the workplace, simply would not occur beyond cognitive diversity.

The next step for companies is to create a space for diversity, equity, and inclusion executives to have a seat at the table on a regular basis to provide guidance, insights, and high-level influence on how investments for sustaining ESG can be demonstrated.  In today’s environment Fortune 500 companies, large organizations, and the Biden Administration are reviewing the role of diversity in ESG investment decision making.   Moreover, more indexes, like Bloomberg, US Russell 3000, FTS Exchange, and DOW are requiring companies to disclose how they are leveraging diversity initiatives to influence ESG investments.  

In conclusion, here are some practical considerations so that diversity executives can begin to facilitate their journey to illustrate how DEI adds tremendous value as an integral part of the ESG equation:

  • DE&I strategies are foundational to the execution of cultural inclusion within companies and organizations.  DE&I executives can include the ESG analyst as part of their team when creating initiatives, so that they understand the practical side.
  • DE&I leaders can include key metrics required by ESG analysts to be a part of their scorecard and visa-versa. Aligning metrics on both sides will create accountability.
  • DE&I leaders with Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) can facilitate leadership retreat to help executives understand the impact and influence embedded diversity strategies have on the environment, sustainability, and governance.
  • Establish board/management scorecard that includes key initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion among policies and governance for the board of directors to adhere to.  Leverage existing momentum of diversity on boards as a key indicator for success that is a part of ESG reporting.


Chan, Brian, The Ultimate Guide (2021); Diversity and Social Impact made Easy

Executive Matters, Process PA Governance (March 11, 2020) The Four Ps of Corporate Governance.

Fleischmann, Alan H.H. CEO of Laurel Strategies, Inc. (June 11, 2020) Turning ESG into ESGD: How investors can support diversity with their dollars.

Herold, Hannah, ESG Analyst, ESG and Investment Stewardship Team,  American Century Investments (January 20, 2021) How Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Inform ESG. and ESG/

McElvane, Pamela A., MBA, MA, Founder of Index, (data collection 12/31/2019) 2020 Diversity MBA Inclusive Leadership Index Benchmarking Report, annual application; 400 companies participating in primary research on annual basis; completing 240 question survey on the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion and talent advancement strategies.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, Kathryn Gamble; (January 11, 2021); Governance Factor Beyond the Board; (Retrieved from google scholar),

Tang, Kelly, Director Global Research & Design, Dow Jones, (March 14, 2018); Exploring the G in ESG: Governance in Greater Detail – part 1.

Planting Seeds of Change – A Case Study

Kinneil Coltman, PhD
VP & Chief Diversity Officer,
Atrium Health

Who we are?

Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System) is one of the nation’s leading healthcare organizations, connecting patients with on-demand care, world-class specialists and the region’s largest primary care network. A recognized leader in healthcare delivery, quality and innovation, our foundation rests on providing clinically excellent and compassionate care. We have been serving our community since 1940, when we opened our doors as Charlotte Memorial Hospital.

In 2018, we proudly announced that Carolinas HealthCare System is Atrium Health. And while our name has changed, our focus remains the same on delivering the highest quality patient care, supporting medical research and education and joining with partners outside our walls to keep our community healthy.

Why we care.

Atrium Health’s mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, truly means every patient, teammate and community we reach. Diversity, inclusion and equity are a central part of our business practice. Fifty hospitals and more than 900 care locations that make up our healthcare system consciously integrate these principles into everyday operations.

A significant factor in the ability to provide culturally competent care is having a workforce whose demographic composition closely matches the patients and areas we serve. Atrium Health is dedicated to fostering a work environment where people from diverse backgrounds are adequately represented at all levels and work comfortably together – recognizing that talent is enhanced by the diversity teammates bring to the workplace. Our culture of inclusion encourages understanding, respect and appreciation of the unique attributes specific to each patient, teammate and community.

Our strategy.

Atrium Health’s philosophy regarding diversity, inclusion and equity, is guided by our Diversity Agenda – which supports the values, ideals and mission of the organization. The guiding principles within, enhance our position in the industry and support our strategic priorities – to be the most connected and convenient healthcare system, excel at high-value, person-centered care delivery, and increase the affordability of our services.

What we did.

In 2016, a cross-functional committee, led by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), designed the curriculum and parameters of the Atrium Health Diversity Certificate Program (DCP), which serves to support the Diversity Agenda and advance related goals.

The six-week blended learning program imparts graduates with the context, tools and strategies needed to achieve a higher level of cultural competence – at work and home. Furthermore, by enhancing teammates’ skill sets, the DCP promotes culturally and linguistically competent care delivery.

The comprehensive course encompasses a variety of teaching methods including instructor-led classes, experiential activities, peer mentorship and self-guided pursuits – culminating in a capstone presentation. The program is open for application to all teammates at Atrium Health who are interested in exploring diversity related concepts, systems and leadership strategies – while becoming more effective diversity champions.

The Diversity Certificate Program continues to boast a strong completion rate and a sustained record of high quality programming. Most of the roughly 360 graduates to date, have gone on to become force multipliers that extend the reach and impact of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The popularity of the program, represents the critical mass needed to infuse cultural sensitivity, understanding, affirmation and social responsibility throughout the organization. Over the last nine cohorts, the number of applicants reached a peak of more than 300 applicants for one term. With an intentionally small class size, this left many wanting and seeking other ways to engage with D&I.

What changed?

The DCP’s reputation and growing number of graduates enhanced the visibility of the robust platform of D&I education available. Those who are not accepted are encouraged to apply again and given personalized application feedback upon request. Additionally, the application status notification now directs teammates to a smorgasbord of D&I online mini-courses, system resources groups, diversity councils and upcoming opportunities.

Furthermore, DCP graduates also cite experiencing a form of personal growth – often referred to as cathartic. It is not uncommon for cohorts to shed tears along their journey – tears of joy, sadness and relief, as the classroom fosters an atmosphere where participants feel safe and allow themselves to be vulnerable. Life-long friendships are formed, professional connections are made and an affirming micro-culture is formed – which in turn spreads across the organization. Many graduates also go on to become life-long learners, advocates and change agents for this work.

As a result, teammates demonstrate behaviors that elevate performance, empathy and the ability to meet people where they are – which in turn transforms our patient experience, quality outcomes, and workplace culture.

One of the strategies we used in the program was to invite individuals throughout the organization, who frequently engage with D&I, to facilitate several of the classroom sessions on a voluntary basis. This tactic was so effective that it inspired the creation of our Diversity Faculty – a rotating pool of teammates who volunteer their time and talents to facilitate diversity-related education for work areas across Atrium Health.

Atrium Health won both gold and silver level Brandon Hall Awards for the DCP in 2017 – Best Inclusion & Diversity Strategy and Best Certification Program, respectively. The Brandon Hall Excellence Awards Program recognizes organizations, who have successfully deployed programs, strategies, modalities, processes, systems and tools that have achieved measurable results.

Lessons learned along the way.

Partnerships need a push.

Over the first few cohorts, it became evident that participants needed a greater push to connect with their diversity partners (aka peer mentors), thus capstone presentations are now done collaboratively.

Too much of a good thing, can be bad.

At one point, the DCP got so popular that the massive number of applications became increasingly unmanageable with each consecutive cohort. In response, we shortened the application window and began directing teammates to alternate D&I opportunities.

Lessons are best learned lean.

We determined that a deeper dive into fewer topics, was more effective and impactful than an overview of many. After the initial launch, we streamlined the overall program content to focus on only the most impactful and current topics.

Week five of the program focuses on inclusive leadership. Originally, we allowed individual contributors to attend upon request. However, we found that leaders are more receptive to leadership teachings when in the company of other leaders.

Our advice.

Get creative in how you expand the reach of your diversity efforts. Most organizations have a limited number of fulltime employees dedicated to diversity-related work. Find ways to increase your impact, without increasing your workload – such as cascading education and initiatives through employee resource groups and diversity councils.

Learn to leverage the passion of people in other areas of your organization as force multipliers to enhance your company’s diversity maturity. Not only will this effort increase your capacity, it also offers more flexibility in scheduling independent team education, and it gives faculty members opportunities to demonstrate their talents in areas that may otherwise remain hidden.

In essence, do not be afraid to think outside the box to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all. We sure do.

An Apex Approach to D&I: Acknowledgement, Accountability and Action – A Case Study

Erikajoy Daniels, 
SVP & Chief Diversity Officer,
Advocate Aurora Health

When Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care came together in 2018 to form Advocate Aurora Health, we wanted to ensure diversity and inclusion (D&I) remained a top priority for our newly combined health system. To make this aim a reality, our D&I strategy had to permeate throughout the organization through shared ownership and accountability among leadership and all 70,000 team members. As one of the top ten largest not-for-profit health systems in the country, we needed to start at the top with support from our board of directors to achieve alignment among all stakeholders.

Like many organizations, our board provides a high-level view of the current and future state of our work and aids in aligning efforts to our broader organizational strategy. Our decision to obtain our board’s commitment to D&I at the outset stemmed from a desire to infuse D&I into our organization’s strategic plan. Oftentimes, without support from the top, efforts like D&I can remain siloed, unsupported and can even become stalled when not built into the organization’s foundation. As a large health system, we wanted our D&I strategy to weave into every facet and function and not stand alone as a separate initiative. We wanted D&I to be embedded into our DNA and echo the sentiments of our values and commitments.

To generate interest and support from our board, we yielded a three-pronged approach: 1) leverage my years of handson experience and role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) to produce a strategic plan for D&I, 2) launch in-depth education and learning sessions for our executive leadership team, and 3) build a board-liaison model to foster connections between the board and our D&I progress.

By creating a system-wide D&I strategic plan, our team was able to frame D&I as a comprehensive strategic effort that could grow through shared ownership and accountability.

The impetus for this approach lied in our vision for D&I. When asked, “How will you grow a D&I department that is capable of staffing this comprehensive plan?” I’d respond, “How many people work for the organization? Because I believe D&I will require action and support from every single person in our workforce.” By creating a plan that embedded D&I into everything we do, we were able to inspire our leadership to take ownership over D&I in their respective areas and reach every corner of our health system.

Considering that leadership support was fundamental to ensuring the success of our D&I strategy, we had the fortune of an engaged executive leadership team (ELT) that was willing to dedicate hours to learning about D&I through thinking and learning sessions. These sessions helped our ELT build their muscle for addressing challenging D&I situations, raise awareness about D&I issues and elevate their sense of judgement and discernment toward D&I gaps in our organization. These sessions required a great deal of honesty and vulnerability but were vital for empowering our leaders to drive meaningful change.

The thinking and learning sessions sparked subsequent buy-in and support from our CEO, who wanted to make the most out of this great momentum by endorsing D&I’s key role with our board. The CEO diligently kept the board apprised of our D&I progress and led a candid discussion around our areas of strength and opportunity in hopes to activate change within the organization. After months of discussions at the board level, we realized it would be valuable to proactively gather feedback from board members about their curiosities and interests concerning D&I to ensure we were providing them the most valuable and actionable information. This sparked the launch of our board liaison model. The board liaison is a board member who provides insight and mentoring from the governance level to aid in D&I decision-making and prioritization.

This board member also serves as a fully-informed D&I ambassador who champions D&I and provides fellow board members with context around our D&I efforts. This approach has allowed us to strike a healthy balance between transparent connection with our internal leadership and open communication with our CEO. Through this model, D&I has remained a top priority that is intentionally discussed at regular board meetings and has served as a strategic imperative for our entire organization.

Our journey to obtaining board support for D&I helped us evade three common obstacles that arise during an organization’s D&I journey: lack of communication, competition for resources and lack of accountability among the masses. From a communication standpoint, without leadership support, D&I efforts run the risk of falling victim to back burner syndrome. As leaders set the course for an organization, businesses often gather their workforce in town halls, webcasts and large forums to rally the troops and build momentum and morale around strategic goals and efforts. As the CEO steps to the podium and the leadership team gathers to share their insight, independent initiatives oftentimes become placed on the back burner. Seemingly siloed initiatives go unmentioned, let alone emphasized, as critical bodies of work. To prevent this misfortune from striking our D&I strategy, our board and leadership team’s support enabled us to leverage our internal communication channels to paint our D&I strategy as a strategic imperative and not a separate initiative. Our communication channels served as a catalyst for generating interest and energy around the value of our D&I strategy and helped our workforce understand its connection to these critical D&I efforts and their role in the future of our organization.

Business lines across all industries understand the challenge of competing for resources. Budgets are often constrained and opportunities for lean stewardship are often championed. In this environment, independent D&I initiatives typically struggle to obtain the appropriate dollars, time and people to grow meaningful efforts to scale. However, by prioritizing support from the top and aligning D&I with the system’s overall strategy, it is easier to obtain the necessary investment to grow a D&I platform that truly makes a difference. Because we had support from our board from the beginning, we were able to secure the necessary resources, support and enthusiasm to ensure the longevity of our D&I efforts.

A D&I strategy is only as strong as the people who have the influence and desire to execute it through shared accountability. Recognizing this strategy impacts more than 70,000 team members, we needed a mechanism for evaluating our progress and ensuring the success of our desired outcomes. To achieve this, our D&I progress is continually measured, evaluated and reported to leadership at the top. This transparency allows us to identify any barriers to our success, create actions plans for addressing gaps, and establish channels for shared accountability throughout the organization. Shared accountability is quite a tall order; however, when paired with access to data, tools and resources, leaders are more equipped to fulfill our D&I goals at the local level.

For organizations attempting to achieve shared accountability for D&I and executive support from the top of the house, it is important to keep two priorities top of mind: CEO engagement and D&I measurement. Above all, our D&I journey would have remained stagnant without the support of our CEO. When a CEO is engaged in the work and stays up to date on the latest advancements from the D&I office, they are better positioned to bring about change. Your CEO serves as a bridge between your efforts and the board’s interests. It is important to lean on your CEO, who can provide candid feedback and healthy discussion before presenting your D&I efforts to the board. Secondly, a D&I scorecard has served as our north star. By sharing a D&I scorecard with our ELT, we have been able to collectively build creative action plans and celebrate wins, progress and shared learning with our leadership team. This has proven to be a successful way to measure progress and provide the system with regular visibility and transparency.

All D&I strategies will stumble from time to time. But when you have support from the top and a board liaison who aligns your work to the organization’s future direction, those stumbles are merely minor bumps in the long road ahead. Your board of directors is rich with knowledge and experience from various industries and not only does their support help your D&I strategy achieve much-needed legitimacy, but they can also provide insights and guidance that help forge an even stronger program. The voice of the board has helped us drive further and strive higher to ensure our D&I strategy is an organizational strategic priority and will remain one for many years to come.

L’Oréal Case Study

Angela Guy, 
Sr. Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer,
L’Oréal USA

For over 100 years, L’Oréal has recognized and celebrated the diversity in beauty. As the world’s leading beauty company, our products are sold in 150 countries around the world and are formulated to meet the needs and aspirations of all consumers. We know that in order to meet those needs, it is essential to have a pipeline of talent that supports the diversity of the marketplace.

When it comes to our employees, we believe, as validated by research conducted by the Korn Ferry Institute in 2016, that diverse teams, when well-managed, outperform homogenous teams. Our performance as the #1 beauty company in the US and globally is testimony to that fact. We are living proof of the power of diverse teams. Here in the US, 39% of our employees identify as People of Color in a labor force where that representation is 37%. We know the diversity of our teams contributes to our success on a daily basis, and that is why Diversity & Inclusion is a business driver at L’Oréal.


At L’Oréal, we “measure what we treasure.” We treasure our talent, and regular analysis of our talent and compensation showed us that we needed to do more to get the right people in the right jobs in a sustainable and equitable way. Several years ago, our Global Chairman and CEO, Jean-Paul Agon, established a mission for all L’Oréal subsidiaries to focus on gender balance at all levels as well as pay equity. At the time, L’Oréal USA whose workforce was — and is — approximately 70% women did not have enough representation of women in senior, strategic positions in the company. Additionally, our wage gap was constantly fluctuating as our business is based on an acquisition model, meaning we are continually assimilating new employees into our company who arrive with varying pay structures. Frédéric Rozé, President and CEO of L’Oréal USA, and the members of our management committee took on the challenge to correct those inequities by ensuring that gender balance and pay equity are top priorities across the company, and by taking action in a number of areas.


Two years ago, Mr. Rozé joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest-CEO-driven business commitment to drive diversity and inclusion in the workplace. He publicly committed to making gender balance and pay equity a priority. Since then, he has spoken broadly about the company’s commitment both internally and externally and has been clear about his expectations and desire to see sustainable, equitable change. That commitment has seen numerous results.

Mr. Rozé and our company’s Strategic Committee made a concerted effort to identify or create more opportunities for women at senior levels where it made strategic sense. As a result, our Executive Committee, which is comprised of 68 heads of major brands such as L’Oréal Paris, Lancôme, Maybelline, Kiehl’s and many more, is now at gender parity. Six years ago, women represented 31% of the Executive Committee. Today that number exceeds 50%. Additionally, numbers of women at the Director, AVP, VP and SVP levels have steadily increased in the past five years and are all at – or exceed — parity.

L’Oréal USA, an original signatory to the White House Pledge on Pay Equity, has taken its commitment even further. L’Oréal USA is an active member of the Employers for Pay Equity Steering Committee, a group working with companies to support their efforts towards pay equity.

Angela Guy, SVP, Diversity & Inclusion and Carol Hamilton, Group President, Acquisitions at L’Oréal USA, co-developed and implemented an Inclusive Leadership program with The Harvard Kennedy School for all senior leaders. The program focuses on Gender Equity and Unconscious Bias. Approximately 80 leaders have gone through the program to date and we have begun to imbed these learnings in the way we work.

Our company remains focused and transparent in our mission to achieve gender equality. We received our third certification in Gender Equity through EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) Strategy last year. L’Oréal USA was the first company in the US to be certified by EDGE, a leading global company in gender certification across industries. The EDGE certification involves a comprehensive review of the company’s gender policies and practices along with a deep analysis of gender data across the entire U.S. workforce of more than 12,000 employees. As part of the evaluation, we surveyed employees on gender equality as it pertains to recruitment and promotion, leadership training and mentorship, flexible work, company culture and equal pay for equivalent work.

We recently conducted two wage gap analyses: an internal regression tool and an external tool to validate our model and to identify any areas of opportunity. Our wage gap analysis is conducted on a yearly basis and results are shared with employees. Since 2013, we have reduced our wage gap significantly and are now considered to be equitable by EDGE Standards (EDGE Standards identify equity as less than 5%).

We have Think Tanks (employee resource groups) related to Gender focused on the advancement, retention and continued engagement of women and men at L’Oréal USA. L’Oreal For Women is the umbrella organization that serves as the advisory committee for all the women’s Think Tanks including Women of Color, Women in LeadershipOperations, and roundtables such as The Parents Society and Mentoring Moments and more. Men@L’Oréal is focused on the engagement, recruitment and retention of men.

Every year, we hold an annual Equity Day for male and female leaders at L’Oréal USA. This annual event, hosted by our CEO and sponsored by the L’Oréal For Women, features internal and external speakers discussing topics related to equity, empowerment and advancement. Approximately 200 leaders attend this event.

We continue to leverage the tools and insights shared by the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion by increasing our leadership representation and enhancing our engagement with academic institutions. For example, our senior leaders have participated in conferences such as the Forum for Workplace Inclusion, and at academic institutions such as Penn State, Wharton, Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and Adelphi (to name a few) to discuss topics related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We have also leveraged the PwC videos on bias made available through the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. These videos have been added to our employee learning tools and continue to be shared throughout every level of our organization. We are also committed to sharing best practices by speaking at conferences such as the Forum for Workplace Inclusion, Disability: IN, She Runs It Multicultural Bootcamp and the Diversity MBA National Conference, among many others.


These are some but not all of the actions that are driving results to ensure that L’Oréal USA is a diverse and equitable company. Through our efforts and commitment, L’Oréal USA has been named a Best Company for Multicultural Women, a Best Company for Working Mothers, and a NAFE (National Association for Female Executives) Top Ten Company for Female Executives by Working Mother Media. Additionally, we have been recognized as one of the top companies in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, which distinguishes companies committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women’s equality in the workplace, and one of the leading companies in the Thomson Reuters Gender Equality Index.

At L’Oréal, we have a corporate ambition of Beauty For All, which is our commitment to a sustainable workforce, workplace and marketplace. We value diversity and inclusion as a business imperative and in our efforts to meet the diverse beauty needs and aspirations of consumers around the world. In doing so, we remain committed to ensuring that we are also an equitable, sustainable workplace for employees representing all dimensions of diversity by living our values 365 days of the year.

It Starts with a Plan: How to Embed Inclusive Diversity into the Fabric of Your Organization

Toni L. Coleman Carter, MSHRM
Diversity Strategy Director & Personal Development Coach,
Idaho National Laboratory

Case Study: Idaho National Laboratory

Organizations want to be more diverse, but that doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers. It’s a strategic process. It takes time to lay the foundation and gradually build momentum. For several years at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a Department of Energy national laboratory headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho, numbers of underrepresented employees had remained stagnant despite efforts to increase inclusive diversity. But things began to change in October 2015 when Dr. Mark Peters became INL’s director. Culture changes like increasing diversity and inclusion in an organization take time, but Peters didn’t want to wait. He wanted to do it faster and better than ever before.

Peters recognized the value an inclusive workforce brings to organizations, and particularly in scientific research and development, it’s not something just to aspire to; it’s a necessity. Research shows that workplaces with high inclusion and diversity elements perform better. A 2013 Deloitte University study of 10 industries with over 3,000 respondents of different ages, genders, races/ethnicities and orientations found inclusion not only drives business performance and market share, but also increases individual performance. People do their best work when they’re able to be their best selves; when they are celebrated, not simply tolerated.

In the past, the laboratory had valued diversity, but only in recent years has the organization moved from having an affinity with diversity to incorporating strategic inclusive diversity into fundamental laboratory goals.

Why the change? When Toni L. Coleman Carter became INL’s Inclusion and Diversity strategy director in October 2016, her first task was to review INL’s demographic data and create an Inclusion and Diversity (I/D) strategy. From this process, she created a comprehensive I/D strategy aligned to our Laboratory Plan and Agenda (business strategy) and embedded it into our People Strategy.

Inclusion and Diversity’s primary focus is to help widen our talent circle and develop employees by fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can develop, grow and maximize their potential. Our enhanced I/D strategy is embedded in everything we do, including requisitions and job postings. For instance, we’ve added language to our job postings to include “Women and People of Color are strongly encouraged to apply.”

In working through the strategy elements, five keys for success emerged:

  1. Get executives on board. Convert executives from lukewarm supporters to visible advocates.
  2. Reinforce inclusion with targeted internal and external branding.
  3. Change the way you think about recruiting. Everyone at your company can be a brand ambassador and recruiter
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Use communications to educate employees about inclusion and get everyone on the same page.
  5. Measure everything. Use transparent demographics and intentional action.

Tactics to leverage leadership, employment branding, communication and data to drive change

  1. Get executives on board. Convert executives from lukewarm supporters to visible advocates.

    Idaho National Laboratory is taking concrete steps to lead in inclusive diversity. It’s one thing to put a statement on a website or meet the minimum legal requirements for diversity; it’s quite another to embrace inclusive diversity as part of the fabric of your organization. We are doing the latter.

    In an open letter published on our website, our laboratory senior leaders share our core beliefs and values about setting a positive example and bringing people together to foster greater mutual respect and understanding while creating environments where everyone can maximize their fullest potential. We are serious about fostering inclusive diversity and expect all charities, entities and organizations with whom we collaborate or conduct business to see the value of inclusive diversity and to follow the same guiding principles.

    In 2018, we created an Executive Inclusion Council (EIC), led by laboratory director Dr. Mark Peters with support from the deputy laboratory directors and six operational strategists. Members provide visible support and strategic insight into where the organization is going to ensure deliberate inclusion actions are taken to accelerate effective end results. But they’re not just talking the talk – senior leaders are on board and walking the walk. The EIC prompts additional change because members are actively creating inclusion initiatives and owning their deployment. They’re holding each other and the rest of the laboratory accountable.
  2. Reinforce inclusion with targeted internal and external branding.

    We have taken strategic action to increase brand recognition throughout the nation by taking out highprofile advertisements, participating in conferences, winning national diversity awards and publicizing inclusive feature stories. All of these mediums help position us as an inclusive employer of choice.

    As one of the largest employers in the state, we provide funding to support numerous institutions serving underrepresented populations in the communities where our employees live. These institutions are often small 501(c) (3) organizations, and they count on our financial support to be able to provide services to those in need. Many employees serve on boards of these organizations and participation increases brand awareness of our laboratory, plus boosts employee morale and engagement.

    We also rebranded our employee resource groups as Leadership Councils and realigned them to focus on laboratory objectives that produce high performing teams and a return on investment to our organization. They are now moving from a simple awareness into the next phases of development and maturation.

    The Leadership Councils provide tools, resources and development opportunities to assist colleagues in becoming more culturally astute and better leaders. Everyone at our laboratory has the opportunity to participate in several leadership councils including Multiculturals in Leadership, Newcomers in Leadership, Prism (an LGBTQ and ally group), Women in Leadership, and the Veterans and People with Disabilities in Leadership.
  3. Change the way you think about recruiting. Everyone at your company can be a brand ambassador and recruiter.

    Expand the talent circle
    We’re helping widen the circle of candidates we draw from by searching outside of the local and regional area, not just for senior leadership or hard to fill positions, but also for junior level employees and crafts positions. This requires working with hiring managers to provide additional time for recruiters to go source and have conversations with underrepresented candidates. Opening a position for only a few days or weeks is often not enough to find the pool of inclusively diverse candidates we’re looking for.

    You don’t have to sit around and wait for human resources to find talent for you. Everyone at your organization should be recruiting. Have employees help source talent by getting information from people who work in the field.

    They know what is truly needed to be successful in a role like theirs. Candidates will still go through the formal application process, but it can be a great avenue to reach an audience that recruiters may not have in their network.

    Set managers up for success
    When hiring, help managers think strategically about their teams and determine what skillsets would be a culture add versus a culture fit. For instance, if everyone on a team is from a major city, would it be helpful to bring in someone from a rural area? If everyone on a team is from a tier one university, would it benefit the team to look at other universities to diversify and get some different thinking?

    Help managers be more inclusive in their hiring by working with the legal team to create a managerial guide explaining what they are and are not being asked to do to be inclusive in their hiring. For instance, Idaho National Laboratory developed this basic guide for managers: Idaho National Laboratory Guide
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Use communications to educate employees about inclusion and get everyone on the same page.

    Different communications avenues will work for different people, and the most successful messages are those conveyed multiple times through many different methods. We’ve found success in a combination of articles, videos, social media posts and a dedicated space on our website for people to find out more information. We’re also exploring more nontraditional ways of communicating with employees including using mobile apps or text messages.

    Educating employees on inclusion
    We provide employees with short, interactive mental training workouts designed by Mind Gym to help employees recognize and conquer biases. Employees have responded well to these workouts, and we’re seeing people holding each other accountable in a nonconfrontational way. The Mind Gym curriculum provides tailored culture workouts that organizations need to prepare for an influx of inclusive diversity. Idaho National Laboratory has several certified Mind Gym trainers and, depending on the workout, also brings in an external certified Mind Gym coach. The philosophy behind these workouts is that with the right content, you can get people thinking in a different way in a short period of time. However, it is important to continue to provide people with refresher information all the time.

    Additionally, in 2018, we introduced a new Laboratory Director Award called the Inclusive Diversity Champion Award which highlights a high potential, high performing employee who has gone above and beyond to model influential inclusive behavior and help facilitate courageous conversations.

    We also launched INL CultureWizard, an online and mobile app cultural learning resource to help employees better understand cultural behaviors, preferences and work styles. This tool uses interactive learning experiences to help people avoid faux pas, build cultural agility, and maximize effective communication.

    Our inclusion team also hosts several leadership symposiums each year, which are open to all employees. These sessions typically center on how inclusion and psychological safety can lead to enhanced organizational effectiveness and individual performance. One secret to making these successful labwide is not branding these events as inclusion and diversity initiatives, but as leadership development and professional acumen opportunities. The events still build in inclusion and cultural agility skills, but we subtly work them into each session. This ensures we attract more than our “choir” to each session, which ultimately helps to move everyone further on the inclusion journey.

    Responding to controversy
    Controversy and resistance to ideas about inclusion is expected because it requires people to change behaviors and become more self-aware. When encountering controversy or resistance, don’t shy away. Lean in. Ask questions to determine the root of the resistance, and you’ll get clues on a) how to bring that person along on the journey, and b) how to modify your future tactics to be more effective.

    Be aware of changing times and trends
    When developing inclusion communications, be aware of changing times and trends. Things that have worked for the last five or six years may not work anymore. Understand where your industry and the inclusion discipline are going. Position your organization ahead of them. Create “next practices” in your discipline, and don’t get caught up in best practices. When best practices are shared, they are a few years old, so more than likely something more innovative is already out there. Be a leader!
  5. Measure everything. Use transparent demographics and intentional action.

    Data and measurements are key ways to show results and progress. Track analytics for your feature stories to see readership. Analyze social media posts for reach and audience. Examine employee and hiring demographics. When people ask about inclusion results, if you can only say “I suspect” or “I suppose,” that doesn’t help your efforts. Think about it: Would your chief financial officer get away with those types of responses? Data helps remove the ambiguity.

    Disconnect from underperforming initiatives that don’t work, and try something else. Investments should only be made into areas where the organization has the possibility of producing a maximum return on the investment. Unless, of course, your organization has money to burn.

    In the spirit of transparency, beginning in December 2016, INL began sharing its employee demographic data publicly via the external website. This provides an added awareness for the world, but it also helps us hold each other accountable for driving intentional actions which produce effective outcomes.

    The inclusion team shares employee demographics with managers to help them better understand the amazing talent in their organizations. Some managers thought they were doing a great job with hiring diverse candidates, but the demographic numbers painted a different picture. This level of awareness moves hiring managers from “I think I’m doing that” to “Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to do that.”

    We’ve also shared applicant tracking data (ATS) with a few managers. We’ve demonstrated what happens when Human Resources sends a candidate to the manager. Who gets interviewed? Who gets hired? This is critical for organizations to analyze because you want to make sure your teams aren’t operating along the lines of similarities – something sociologists call homophily. Hiring managers may not even be aware of the underlying biases that are leading them to hire people who remind them of themselves and/or look like them. Increasing awareness by providing straightforward data can help overcome these biases.

Lessons Learned

Data doesn’t lie
With the increased emphasis on data, measurement and awareness, we were able to start tracking candidate pipeline and hiring information. Our inclusion office collaborated with the Human Resources Technology team and INL data scientist Carole Jesse, who designed and built INL’s first inclusion simulator.

What’s revolutionary about the simulator is it populates the exact percentage of underrepresented candidates who need to be in our acquisition process, in order to meet our overall inclusive diversity goals.

For instance, if our organization wants to increase underrepresented talent by 10%, the simulator can determine how many underrepresented candidates need to be in our process in order to achieve that 10% increase. Often that means not just sending over 10% more, but sending over 20% or 30% more underrepresented candidates to achieve that 10% increase.

The simulator also allows us to assess data several years out. Our goal is to double the number of women and people of color at INL by 2023, and the simulator allows us to enter current data and determine how we need to perform in hiring and retention practices each year to meet that goal.

In addition to using data for the simulator, our team also tracked the percentage of underrepresented candidates from the management review, to interview, to hiring via our applicant tracking system.

The initial review found that the actual hire numbers mirrored the interview numbers for women. In other words, the percentage of women who got interviews was the same as those who received job offers.

Figure B shows some sample data for fictitious company Inspire. This example models how organizations can track candidate pools beginning with candidates provided by staffing consultants to hiring managers, through manager review, interviews and hires. Consistently tracking this information can provide insight into potential hidden biases.

Figure B indicates that hiring managers at Inspire have a bias toward hiring women. This data will be even more valuable if tracked for several years and the trend continues.

Suggested next steps to overcome this bias include:

  • Continue intentional action discussions with all hiring managers (create awareness).
  • Review interview questions and experiences. Ensure they are not unconsciously excluding men.
  • Significantly increase the number of men in the manager review and interview processes.
  • Ensure multiple men are interviewed for all positions (the rule of twos).
  • Assess who’s making the final decision – one manager or a panel. Ensure men are on the interview team.

When managers have been intentional about inclusion during each step of the candidate pipeline process, the percentage of underrepresented candidates interviewed is consistent with the percentage of candidates hired.

Providing this type of data can help organizations see if they have potential biases impacting their hiring or candidate selection processes. We’ve already seen this awareness positively impact change in our candidate pipeline.

The Results

When all of these elements work together, organizations can accomplish some amazing things. Within one year (from 2018 to 2019), Idaho National Laboratory doubled the number of women on the senior leadership team. The senior leadership team is also 20% U.S. veterans.

Toni L. Coleman Carter, MSHRM
Idaho National Laboratory Inclusion & Diversity Strategy Director
Certified Diversity Practitioner
Personal Development Coach

Julie A. Ulrich, MBA
Idaho National Laboratory Communications Strategist
Certified Change Management Professional

Graphic Artist
Neil Harward

Smith, Dr. Christie and Kenji Yoshino. Uncovering talent: A new model of inclusion.

Inclusion and Diversity Built for the Digital Era

Shari Slate, 
Vice President,
Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer

Digitization is Reshaping the Future of Work…and D&I

Digital transformation is radically changing companies across the globe—of every size and in every industry. It’s resetting expectations for the customer and workforce experience. As a result, companies are being forced to reinvent their business and operating models faster than ever. This urgency applies not only to Cisco, as technology is the second-most disrupted industry, but to every company. In a recent study, 23% of global executives said that competitive pressures would force them to reinvent their business models every year. Another 41% said this would be required every 1 to 3 years. In the recent past, companies could prosper using decades-old business models. This is no longer the case. The study also surfaced a stark reality for slow-moving organizations – more than 40% of executives viewed digital disruption as an existential threat – a force that could put them out of business entirely.

Thus, companies will be compelled to embrace emerging technologies and processes to be successful. And these changes will cascade throughout their organizations, “breaking” HR and reshaping the future of work. Technology – specifically the digitization of solutions, systems, processes, and practices – will also transform how we solve for diversity, inclusion, and equity inside our companies. Digitization is creating an unprecedented opportunity for people and things to connect, collaborate, and participate. As a result, digitization is accelerating and amplifying the value and impact of diversity and inclusion. Emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality, will create new possibilities and opportunities for diversity and inclusion.

Transformational Shift in D&I

At Cisco, we’ve made a transformational shift in how we view diversity and inclusion. For the past several years, the discipline of diversity and inclusion has been in a state of transition. In the first transition, diversity was focused on government compliance – counting people. The second transition focused on how employees feel and creating an environment where they had a sense of belonging and could thrive. The third transition, which we are in now, focuses on leveraging collaboration technology to enable the full spectrum of diversity to participate in business outcomes. It is important to note that “collaboration technology” extends beyond today’s collaboration processes and tools to include emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality) that are set to transform how people work together, and with machines, to achieve business outcomes.

This transformational shift led us to create the first-of-its kind Office of Inclusion and Collaboration (OIC) in 2014. The vision for OIC is to:

Create exponential value for Cisco, our employees, customers, partners, and communities through the intersection of diversity, inclusion, collaboration, and technology.

It’s important to note that with this name change we were by no means abandoning our commitment to diversity. Diversity is foundational to our value proposition. The value of diversity is amplified and accelerated through inclusion, collaboration, and technology.

Creating Exponential Value Through Digitization

OIC is focused on developing digital solutions that architect the future of fairness and equity by delivering data and insights at the point of decision-making. We believe that in an era of digitization, this will accelerate our ability to fully realize the power and potential of people (e.g., diverse mindsets, skill sets, experiences, and perspectives), and to foster an environment in which they can thrive.

Our flagship solution Diverse Talent Accelerators (DTA) illustrates our approach to leveraging collaboration and technology to drive value for the organization. DTA is a suite of digital solutions that Cisco designed and built to help find, attract, and hire diverse top talent. Digitization has allowed us to expand our aspiration from simply mirroring the markets where we do business, based on generic talent market data, to using analytics-driven insights to mirror the markets where we do business, for every job we hire for, in the regions where we hire, and at every level.

The goal was to give our leaders business intelligence, geo-data, process automation, augmented content, and interactive guidance to locate and match the best people with the best opportunities.

Based on this need, we began a multi-year journey to design and build a custom solution and deploy it across our global organization.

Innovating a New Digital Offering

Within DTA, we’ve built a suite of four digital solutions targeted at different levels of management within the company as part of a comprehensive strategy:

  • Smart Insights helps VPs and above reset diverse talent aspirations, rethink inclusive hiring strategies, and respond to opportunities to capture a competitive share of diverse talent.
  • Smart Tracker provides data to help business leaders understand their organization’s mix of diverse talent and where to recruit. With search capabilities, including job family, experience, location, and diversity (e.g., gender, ethnicity) it enables focused and accelerated recruitment.
  • Smart Start by Textio helps create job advertisements designed for maximum impact with a simple, intuitive interface and a clear, graphic scoring system that enables recruiting teams to neutralize bias and utilize vocabulary and phrasing that’s proven to resonate with a wide array of candidates.
  • Smart Select simplifies the process of assembling and participating in diverse interviewer panels, with capabilities that enable managers to search for participants by gender, grade, region, role, skills, and more.

DTA launched to our global HR organization in May 2018 through targeted live training sessions. We built a dedicated website for all supporting materials and on-demand training to ensure our client-facing HR teams had 24×7 access to our enablement solutions.

Driving Awareness and Adoption

In October 2018, we implemented a top-down adoption strategy and consultative approach for our Executive Leadership Team (ELT). The ELT used DTA to set diversity aspirations and create detailed inclusion and collaboration action plans to deliver on those aspirations. These digitized plans were then cascaded down through the business for further implementation.

Once we had executive buy-in for the launch of DTA, we designed a tailored go-to-market approach for each of our stakeholders: Client-facing HR, Talent Acquisition, People Managers, and our ELT.

The size of our global organization also created change management challenges. We had to enlist the help of our client-facing HR teams to support the business as we rolled out the DTA solutions designed for our People Managers worldwide – an audience that totals approximately 11,000.

To increase awareness and adoption, we partnered with our global team responsible for implementing Cisco’s overall workforce planning activities. Together, we created a new strategy known as Inclusive Workforce Planning that enables us to use insights from DTA as part of our annual planning cycle to increase inclusion and diversity in hiring and track our progress.

We conducted two highly successful pilot projects before we officially launched DTA to the business at large. The first enabled our Advanced Services (AS) organization to:

  • Validate trends and readjust talent priorities based on actual data vs. assumptions;
  • Create customized inclusion and collaboration action plans tailored to each group within AS;
  • Provide leaders with data insights into current levels of diverse representation and attrition rates

As a result of the pilot, AS exceeded its aspirations in every category, including a 2.5% increase in female hires and a 4% increase in GenY retention.

We also tested DTA with our Meraki acquisition. They saw a 24% increase in women representation and increased ethnic diversity in nearly every category – up 30% overall. The keys to success for this pilot were active executive engagement, motivated leadership, early involvement with OIC post-acquisition, and the creation of a custom Diversity Dashboard to meet Meraki’s unique organizational needs.

With the official launch of DTA in October of last year, 100% of our ELT has used the solution to build customized action plans for their respective organizations to drive higher levels of diversity, inclusion and collaboration. These plans are now being cascaded down throughout the company, where our People Leaders are beginning to implement them.

Our Results

Currently, we are the most diverse Cisco since 1998 across the full spectrum of diversity. We have one of the most diverse Executive Leadership Teams in the industry – 50% women and 67% diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity. And at the end of our last fiscal year, we had record representation of women at 25% globally. This result was due in part to a record hiring rate for women of 29%. We transparently share our data annually in our Corporate Social Responsibility report. We are continually evolving our solutions to be more innovative, digitized, and fully integrated into the business for maximum impact.

At Cisco, our vision is to build an inclusive future – a future that’s being shaped by digital transformation. We’re experimenting, learning, and working with our 74,000 employees and business leaders to navigate the rapidly changing landscape. Across industries, we have an opportunity as CDOs to come together to help each other dive deep, ask the right questions, and leverage each other’s experience and expertise. Collectively, I am confident we will deliver on the promise of diversity and inclusion and build the bridge between where our organizations are operating today and what will be required of us in the digital era.

Shari Slate is the Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer at Cisco. Her organization is responsible for leading Cisco’s Office of Inclusion and Collaboration, as well as global Community Relations. Slate has been widely recognized for her visionary leadership and transformational views on the business value created at the intersection of diversity, inclusion, collaboration and technology. Guided by her thought leadership in this area, Cisco is embracing new models of inclusion and collaboration to fuel innovation, accelerate market leadership, and reimagine workplace practices in the digital era.

In her previous role, Slate served as Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Strategist for Cisco’s sales organization. She was responsible for increasing inclusion in the revenue-generating arm of the business and incubating new strategies for fostering full spectrum diversity.

Slate joined Cisco in 2010. Prior to that, she served as Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Global Community Affairs at Sun Microsystems.

Slate is a respected and highly regarded leader in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Recent honors include the Catalyst Award from the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, The Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business Award for 2019, Savoy Magazine’s Most Influential Women in Corporate America list for 2019, and Black Enterprise’s Top Executives in Corporate Diversity list for 2018. Prior to these honors, Slate was named a 2017 Diversity Leader by Profiles in Diversity Journal, and one of the Top Influential Women in Corporate America for 2016 by Savoy Magazine. In 2014, the YWCA named her a “Tribute to Women in Industry” honoree. In 2013, she was named one of Diversity Woman Magazine’s “Stars Who Mean Business”. She has also been recognized as one of the “Most Influential Women in California” by the California Diversity Council and a “Woman Worth Watching” by Diversity Journal Magazine, as well as the recipient of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women 2010 Corporate Leader Award and The Network Journal’s “40 Under Forty” Achievement Award.

Slate holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political, legal, and economic analysis from Mills College.

Source: Wade, Macaulay, Barbier, Noronha. (2019). Orchestrating Transformation. Global Center for Digital Business Transformation
Source: Wade, Macaulay, Loucks, Noronha. (2016). Digital Vortex. Global Center for Digital Business Transformation
Cisco Systems. 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

The Value Proposition for Minority Business Certification

Shelia C. Hill Morgan, 
Former CEO & President,
Chicago Minority Supplier,
Diversity Council

The challenge: The need to validate 51% Ownership, Operation and Control (OOC) of their businesses is not self-evident to Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs).*

The approach: Affirm and validate; minority entrepreneurs continue to experience contract and access to capital discrimination in the market place.

The impact: Opportunity! OOC validation opens doors, improves and increases access to contracts and capital in the public and private sectors; certification provides assurance of company ownership.

Minority Business Entrepreneurs often ask the question, “Why do I need to become certified? How does certification benefit me? Am I labeling my business? Will certification limit my opportunity to secure a contract and to participate on a level playing field?”

The short answer to all these queries is: certification opens opportunities for MBEs.

In an undeniable trend, corporations have increasingly seen the value of reaching out to diverse suppliers. In 2006, AT&T reported $4 billion in revenue from bids that required diverse supplier involvement. Joan Kerr, executive director of supplier diversity at the time said of having MBE subcontractors, “It’s often a tipping factor” in winning a bid. Johnson Controls Inc., credited $6 billion worth of business it received in 2011 to its involvement in supplier diversity. In an Institute for Supply Chain Management survey of 380 corporate participants, the most cited reason for having a diversity program was “Our organization thinks it’s the right thing to do.” While the social impact is true and critical, this the economic impact of a business diversity programs is undisputable.

Before realizing the value of certification, we need to recognize the value of minority business enterprises. A heavy investment in supplier diversity is a critical contributor to generating revenue through four primary ways: inroads to new domestic markets; assistance with international markets; a reliable and nimble domestic supply chain; and a strong sub-contract bidding base.

First, MBEs represent a key to selling products and services to the minority market. The purchasing power of Minorities is expected to reach 45% of the total purchasing power in the United States by the year 2045. With their dollar value surpassing $2 trillion spent in 2015 and $3 trillion by 2030, the market is large. MBEs give buying corporations direct access to the minority market. MBEs are more likely to be located in their local communities. By contracting with an MBE, the corporation puts its name within the desired community and in front of desired consumers.

Second, contracting with MBEs reduces the risk corporations absorb in expanding internationally. Of the 82,000 minority-owned US manufacturing firms, about 14% generate sales from exports. As such, Minority-owned manufacturing firms are more likely to have global operations compared to non-minority owned manufacturing firms. More broadly, minority entrepreneurs, in doing business with their ethnic heritage countries, have competitive advantages that others do not. MBEs are more likely to have familiarity with the language, culture, officials, and market of the foreign country. MBEs extend a network to foreign government contacts and other officials and leaders who could overcome the inevitable challenges that add cost or even derail investment in foreign markets.

Third, investing in a strong supplier diversity program brings the benefits of a secure, nimble domestic supply chain. A domestic supply chain is preferred for simplified shipping and communication logistics, enabling a corporation to shorten lead times and quickly bring products to market. As U.S. demographic shift to proportionally more minority citizens, the proportion of MBE suppliers is also growing. In 2007, a gap existed where the minority adult population represented 31.5 percent of the US population but the 5.8 million minority owned businesses accounted for only 21.9 percent of all classifiable firms. These figures are beginning to balance according to the 2012 census that showed the number of minority owned businesses rose to 8.0 million, or 28.98 percent of all firms. Given the changing United States demographics, sourcing MBE suppliers is critical to maintaining domestic outsourcing.

Fourth, investing in and supporting MBEs positions a corporation to best compete on government and corporate contracts. Government contracts represent a significant market for corporations that have required MBE involvement since The Small Business Act of 1953. The Small Business Act establishes government-wide goals and requires all Federal agencies to negotiate goals annually with the SBA to ensure that small businesses receive maximum opportunity for participation in Federal contracts. To best perform and stay in compliance, a corporation with a strong MBE supplier base has an advantage, enabling stronger responses to government and non-government opportunities.

For these and other reasons, major corporations, governments, public and private sector buyers portend diversity and inclusion matters to the success of the communities we live and work in. Finding and supporting minority owned suppliers generates a positive return for a corporation’s bottom line. Yet minority entrepreneurs continue to be disproportionately excluded from public and private sector contracting. There are opportunities lost to pass through(s), fronts and ability a non-minority business to presenting themselves as minority. Opportunities lost to suppliers who do not present the benefits of MBES. The questions becomes, “How do buyers intentionally identify and validate the ownership, operation and control of businesses and ensure the business is owned operated and controlled by people of color?” Certification!

A rigorous, clinical certification process provides insurance, assurance, mitigates, limits and restricts the ability of pass through(s), fronts and any businesses where the minority owner is not in control from participating and becoming identified as minority in the diversification of supply chains.

Businesses seeking certification must submit an application with the required documentation to the certifying agency. Required documentation for certification will include, proof of ethnicity, bylaws, business licenses, organization of business (i.e. corporation, sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.) stock certificates, organizations status, resumes and various other types of information to determine the ownership, operation and control of the business. This information is critical to the certification process and validation.

Through certification, a minority owned business owner can stand proudly as a third party validated minority owned and controlled business. Only through the wellestablished and recognized process can the major corporations seeking the benefits of buying from MBEs be assured of the unique offerings of true MBEs. For any minority business owner wondering about certification, it is a critical step toward opportunity.

A minority-owned business firm is defined as an enterprise that is at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by an American citizen primarily from an ethnic minority group or, in the case of a publicly-owned enterprise, at least 51 percent of the enterprise’s stock is owned by one or more such individuals. Journal of Management and Marketing Research vol 2.

Jones, Steven. “Benefits of Supplier Diversity May Go Beyond ‘Social Good’.” The Wall Street Journal 21 Aug. 2006: Online.
Katz, Jonathan. “The Business Case for Supply Chain Diversity.” IndustryWeek 12 Nov. 2011: Online.
Institute for supply chain management Supplier Diversity Survey, December 2011.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency. “Minority Purchasing Power: 2000 to 2045.” Sep. 2000.
Whitfield, Gwendolyn. “Supplier Diversity and Competitive Advantage: New Opportunities in Emerging Domestic Markets.” Graziado Business Review, Pepperdine University 2008: Volume 11 Issue
Ordoñez, Silvana. “Minorities: The force fueling small-business growth.” 12 May 2014: Online.
Obuko, Sumiye and Planting, Mark. “The State of Minority Business Enterprises.” Minority Business Development Agency 2015. Online.
Flandez, Raymund. “Enterprise: Immigrants Gain Edge Doing Business Back Home; Knowledge of Culture, Personal Connections Help to Open Doors.” The Wall Street Journal 20 Mar. 2007: Pg. B6.
Danna, Mark. “Domestic outsourcing: A key component in successful reshoring.” Solid State Technology, May 2014: Online.
Nicholson, Tom. “Opportunities Still Exist as Supply Chain Shifts.” Engineering NewsRecord, 12 Dec. 2011: Vol. 267, Issue 17.
Greenhalgh, Leonard and Lowry, James H. Minority Business Success: Refocusing on the American Dream, Stanford Business Books 2011: pg. 4; See also U.S. Census Bureau. “Dynamic Diversity: Projected Changes in the U.S. Race and Ethnic Composition: 1995 to 2050,” commissioned by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency December 1999).
“Los Angeles County a Microcosm of Nation’s Diverse Collection of Business Owners, Census Bureau Reports,” Release Number: CB 150209, December 15, 2015. 13 Public Law 85-536

How to Drive Corporate Change through Activism

Nereida (Neddy) Perez, 
Global Chief Diversity Officer,
McCormick & Co

Corporations looking to attract and retain talent or customers need to learn how to leverage the power of “activism”. From time-to-time in history companies have found themselves on the receiving end of activists who have led boycotts, protests, labor strikes, However, in the last 10 to 15 years corporate leaders have found themselves having to become more vocal and take a stand on issues like the environment and Human Rights as a way of demonstrating to employees and customers that their company is living up to its core values and their commitment to drive positive change in the communities they serve.

Three-quarters (76%) of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and nearly two-thirds (64%) won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong social and environmental practices, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study. According to the study 87% of consumers would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter.

Employees and consumers today expect companies to not just speak about diversity and inclusion but also take a proactive stand on issues related to immigration, pay equity, human rights LGBTQ+ rights, human trafficking and forced child labor issues to name a few. Taking a position means that companies need to move from social giving to a state of proactively identifying their leaderships’ voice and communicate or create a call to action.

In 2018, the U.S. federal government implemented a travel ban policy that employees at several major technology companies mobilized and protested at airports while requesting their company leaders to take a stand. Several CEOs did speak up against the travel ban and new immigration policies. Some companies created legal aid funds to support employees effected and several CEOs withdrew from government advisory boards.

Much like the Civil Rights marches and Wall Street/global financial district sit-ins, employees and consumers are no longer content to watch things unfold they want to see leaders take a stand and they want to be part of the process to drive change.

This article is designed to help diversity and business leaders understand the forms of activism and how to build an internal activist community to drive corporate change with regards to diversity and social issues.

What Motivates Activists

There is an array of reasons why someone may become an activist. What seems to be true for activists is that they are motivated by doing good even if it means engaging in extreme behavior. “The spark for activism” can occur at any age, the need to be part change whether it is to drive it personally or be part of something that will improve society is critical. There are a few common factors that serve as drivers/motivators for individuals who become activists:

  • Exposed to some form of perceived/actual injustice
  • A desire to make things right or better for others
  • A personal need to take some type of action and not be a bystander
  • Moral conviction to fix a situation
  • The need to reconcile an ethical or moral issue related to humanity, the environment, an ecosystem system challenge.

Types of Activism

The main purpose of activism is to provoke people to ask questions and drive change. In a corporate environment, there must be clear and measurable results when leveraging activist tactics, often in the public realm activist have loosely defined objectives which can cause groups to fizzle out. All activists seek to: change a policy, implement a new practice or simply unmask and inform.

Types of Activists

Activism has traditionally focused on a call to action related to human rights, environmental or political causes as the approaches in the past, have ranged from letter writing campaigns, marches, to more extreme tactics. In today’s world, we have new types of activism as a result of new communications and technology platforms. Activism today includes:

  • Digital Activists
    Also, referred to as online activism,internet or web activism as well as e-activism. Online tools and resources are used to organize groups, launch digital campaigns, create electronic advocacy, cyber activism,e-campaigning, and use electronic communication technologies such as social media, particularly Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, e-mail, etc. to mobilize people.
  • Economic Activists
    Focus on bringing attention to economic conditions that impact people negatively. Tactics include encouraging people to not purchase particular products or stop patronage of certain organizations to cause that organization to lose money. In 2018,consumers boycotted Uber and within one day the president of the company resigned from a Whitehouse Business Council he served on. In the medical field, activists called for a boycott of Mylan’s EpiPenthe company which eventually had to offer an alternative to the high cost of the EpiPen.3 Recent marches like a “Day without an Immigrant” was intended to show the economic impact of what would happen if the U.S. immigrant population was reduced.
  • Environmental Activists
    Refers to protecting global natural resources from destruction or pollution, etc.Environmental activists in recent years have raised concerns on the use of ’Fracking’ which is used to extract oil from shale reserves and/or the construction of oil pipelines through protected Native American Lands.4Over the last 25 years, companies have setup and become actively involved in environmental sustainability. Based of the amount of studies and information showing that environmental protection is critical to their ability to do business, major companies like Ikea, New Belgium Brewing, Panasonic, Patagonia, Shell, Starbucks, Waste Zero, have become major advocates in championing policy and legislation designed to proactively protect the environment.
  • Hacktivists
    Is a very loose and decentralized group that operates on ideas rather than directives and can be quickly activated in to a call for action of any type. Anonymous is a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivists that mobilizes on human rights issues.
  • Hashtagavists
    This term was coined by media outlets and refers to the use of Twitter’s hashtags being used to create a call for action of any type. Twitter users who inspire conversations and/or call for action on a broad range of topics are referred to as “Hashtagavists”. Normally, a hashtag group is formed as a result of a discussion or incident that has caused an outrage. #GivingTuesday, #BringBackOurGirls, and #BlackLivesMatter are examples of calls to action that not only created dialogue but resulted in funds raised and political change.
  • Political Activists
    A political activist is someone who is involved in the political process for the sake of promoting, impeding or raising awareness of a certain issue or set of issues. Political activism typically involves engagement beyond just voting, whether it be through protest, demonstration or lecture. Political activism can involve the mobilization of a group of like-minded people who believe in a particular cause that they believe can only be changed if the political process or policies in place are challenged.
  • Social/Humanitarian Activists
    This group is motivated by the preservation and protection of human rights and equality. Social activism seeks to eliminate inequality – hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, poverty, underemployment and poor education. The actions of companies to create equity of pay for women or partner with nonprofits to improve education or stop forced child labor is part social activism. Even the work of diversity and inclusion which strives to create equity falls under the space of social activism.

Build an Activist Community to Drive Corporate Culture Change

Employee activists like community groups want to drive broad social and environmental change to create a better community. However, corporate built activist programs need to have parameters that enable them to function in a constructive manner. As a leader, you will need to be prepared for some level of disruption due to the discussions that may transpire. (If your organization’s culture does not handle disruption well or the leadership is buttoned up and has a hard time with being challenged then stop reading now or proceed with extreme caution.)

  1. Identify the issue/cause or problem that you want to address
    This can be as simple as posing a question like “How can our company become more environmentally friendly?” or “What human rights/social issues do you feel the company should take a stand on?” or “How can we accelerate our diversity efforts to create a more inclusive workplace?” or is there a piece of legislation that needs to change at a state or national level.
  2. Establish the parameters and goals for the group
    You will need to be clear about the purpose of the group and what are the goals that they will be working to achieve. For instance, spelling out the kinds of behaviors that are acceptable vs nonacceptable (i.e. no place for name calling, destruction of property, etc.). Emphasize the company’s core values and intent to engage in fruitful action based dialogue. Also, define for the group what their mission is and what the goals are. If it is just conversation without a result the group is likely to become disinterested and fall apart. However, as long as the goal is broad enough and measurable the group will get more quickly engaged; (i.e. Find a solution to eliminate and bottle clean water in underserved communities by 2020 or increase the number of women in senior ranks in manufacturing by 2020 to 25%).
  3. Identify Potential Advocates
    You may want to initially identify a cross section of characteristics and group of employees to engage to kick off the conversation and test the waters of receptivity. Some potential characteristics include field of work years of service with the company, performance rating (high potentials or employees in good standing verses those on a performance improvement plan), as an example. The goal is to identify people that have previously expressed interest in the topic and can potentially serve as a champion or advocate.

    At this stage, you may want to turn to the employees who are members of your employee resource groups or other social communities that exist within the company because these individuals tend to be proactive. You will want to monitor the group for outliers those that are either very extreme or those that become disengaged. Their opinions and voices are important but you want to understand what is the opinion of the majority of the group.
  4. Educate the Group on the issue
    Provide resources and information about the topic or issue that the company is wanting to address. What are the past actions taken or external partnerships the company is engaged in. What have been the past successes or areas that the company fell short on. Transparency of information will be critical in building trust with the community of participants.
  5. Provide Opportunities for the Group to Volunteer
    Provide the group with an opportunity to become physically involved. Whether it is an opportunity to participate in a community service project or an environmental clean-up project creating an activity that brings the community you have created together. This gives them a chance to connect with like-minded people and further their bond. In addition, activities of physical interaction allows you to invite others to participate in the group. You will want to create activities that are fun for the group but also educational in nature. Use your personal talents to create your own, unique form of activism or ask the group to take a lead in developing activities that appeal to the group.

    Whatever opportunities you create they should aspire to educate, further enroll, develop a solution or take some type of action to support and address the challenge the company is facing.
  6. Track & Measure Impact
    Hosting activities and engaging in conversations is great. However, one major difference between corporate driven activism and other forms of activism is that results/impact needs to be tracked. Results are critical in a corporate environment because shareholders measure the impact and success of a company based on dividends paid and stock prices.

    Some the of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be tracked include, the number of positive media impressions, the number of people in attendance at events and the actual outcomes from the events held. These KPIs convert into measurable outcomes.

Examples of Opportunities to Mobilize Corporate Activists

Whether the focus is to attract talent, drive employee engagement or drive diversity and policy change, internally your employees represent a microcosm of your customers. Not proactively engaging them could impact the company’s ability to stay relevant. Here are some suggestions on engaging activists employees:

Internal Policies: (Human Resources and/or Labor Relations should be involved in discussions to ensure the company adhere to relevant laws.)

  • Tap business/employee resource groups in providing feedback on corporate culture changes (i.e. healthcare benefits, parental leave policies,etc.)
  • Identify a social or environmental issue the company needs to address host a hackathon/brainstorming session to obtain input on messaging or possible solutions.
  • Got to reduce operating costs but trying to save jobs? Mobilize the employees that will be impacted, brief them and get their input on costs savings recommendations and/or the process for downsizing?

External/LegislativeAdvocacy: (make sure to engage your government affairs team)

  • Invite employees to get involved in letter writing campaigns to congressional leaders to advocate for a piece of legislation.
  • Leverage company volunteer hours to allow employees to advocate for a change in legislation or policies the company is working on (i.e. banning forced child labor).
  • Host a townhall meeting with congressional leaders and provide an opportunity for employees to have their voices heard.
  • The company has been found responsible for violation of a major law and fined. Leverage employees to contribute ideas and recommendations on how to turn the situation around…make them part of the solution.
  • Engage Business/Employee Resource Groups with local community members to support major outreach efforts related to social causes or environment, healthcare, hunger, etc.

In conclusion, corporations can leverage the power of individuals who want to drive change to become internal activists and create a voice for the company in a constructive manner. By engaging employees this way, it will enhance company’s ability to attract and retain talent ;and new consumers.

Nereida (Neddy) Perez,
Global Chief Diversity Officer at McCormick & Company, Inc. Founder & Principal,D&I Creative Solutions, LLC and Neddy is an internationally known Human Capital and Culture Change practitioner with more than 24 years of corporate experience working with Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies like UPS, Shell, Sodexo, KPMG, National Grid, Ingersoll Rand, TIAA, McCormick & Company. She has developed and implemented change management initiatives designed to remove organizational and cultural barriers to spur talent and business growth.


Cone Communications, Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 2016
What CEO Activism Looks Like in the Trump Era, by Leslie Gaines-Ross, October 2016, Harvard Business Review,
Untangling the Mylan Epipen Controversy”, article by Dean Celia, Managed Healthcare, October 2016
South Dakota Pipeline Protest Laws Wories Native American Activists, by Ben Kenssele, U.S. News, October 2019,
10 Twitter hashtags that have changed how we talk about social issues, Washington Post article by Tanya Sichynsky, March 21, 2016,
2015’s Top 5 Social Activism Sites by Adweek:
The Activist Academy:
*Amherst College programs and resources for social activism: