The Path To Belonging: Ensuring Our Work To Enhance Diversity Generates the Intended Outcomes

Kirsten Marriner, 
EVP & Chief People Officer,
The Clorox Company

Dalia Ballesteros-Torres, 
Inclusion & Diversity Specialist,
The Clorox Company

Countless organizations in the United States have devoted significant resources to improving diversity. Over time, diversity has become a broader concept, evolving from traditional representation to also considering differences of background, style, perspective, preference and more. And, just as there’s much more work to be done, there are many advancements to highlight. At Clorox, we’re on our own journey – with our own unique learnings and successes.

For example, we have learned that diversity itself is not enough – the right environment and culture are essential to nurture and preserve the breadth of diversity within our organization. So, several years ago we began to emphasize inclusion as part of our work to create a cohesive culture across our geographic and functional boundaries. We’re working to create a stronger sense of belonging for our people, a feeling of being at home while at work in the midst of today’s societal polarization.

We’ve also learned that, no matter how much progress we have made, the I&D space will continue to evolve and we must grow with it. Just like a personal health journey, we can never lose focus — we must make good choices and take the right actions every day to generate and maintain progress.

How do organizations go from pouring resources into increasing their representation numbers to building an inclusive workforce where its members feel a sense of belonging?

Before we dive into our journey, our lessons and the work we continue to do, let’s start by grounding on what diversity, inclusion, and belonging mean at Clorox.

  • Diversity began with representation and has grown to reflect the infinite differences innate in our people, both inherent and acquired attributes. As a consumer-centered organization, we strive to reflect the diversity of our consumers around the world, only some elements of which can be seen or measured.
  • Diversity cannot fully thrive without inclusion, which creates opportunity for all those diverse voices to actively participate in the conversation. Research (Cloverpop) has also demonstrated the link between inclusive decision-making and better business results:
    • Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
    • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.
    • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.” (ModelExpand)
  • A sense of belonging results when diverse ideas are not only listened to but are valued for what they bring to the table. When done right, inclusion helps to create a sense of belonging in which everyone feels encouraged to be exactly who they are. As Wharton’s dean Geoffrey Garrett said in an opinion piece, “all members of our organization should have the confidence and support to contribute their unique perspectives to every aspect of our organization”(Garrett (Wharton)).

At Clorox, we have made interdependent choices to continue advancing our progress toward a culture of belonging. Some of the items below are long-standing and effective traditions for us and others are newer; for all, we’ve learned and refined along the way.

  • Tone at the top. When leaders in an organization truly believe in the value of creating a more inclusive place to work where people feel like they belong, then it becomes a clear priority throughout the organization. It is equally important to build a sense of accountability throughout the organization at all levels. When the core DNA of an organization is tied to core values of compassion and empathy, it makes it a lot easier for people to be on the same page. (Eric Solomon)
  • Inclusive behaviors. These are embedded in our Core Values and leadership model at Clorox. It’s a clear expectation for every one of our employees. In fact, we’ve built it into our performance expectations as a critical element of “how” our people deliver results. “Inclusion is necessary to access the power of a company’s diversity. Behaving inclusively is a skill that can be learned; you don’t have to be born with it (Jonathan McBride).”
  • Army of allies. More likely than not, you have countless people who could serve as allies throughout your organization. Recruit those passionate and enthusiastic about inclusion, diversity and belonging to become your internal champions. Cast a wide net. Invite many, as the acceptances might be pleasantly surprising.
  • Be bold. Change is uncomfortable, and it can incite fear. Only by leaving our comfort zone can we stretch it. Providing support and tools to make inclusion, diversity and belonging an integral part of our culture will make it safer and more familiar, and ensure these behaviors become second-nature to every decision we make. We’ve provided many tools, and some of the most effective have been grounded in neuroscience, including the SEEDS ModelTM (Lieberman, et al.(NLI)) – a simple and practical framework for identifying, labeling and mitigating unconscious biases.
  • Think global. As a global organization with people in a couple dozen countries and consumers in over 100 countries, we understand cultural differences and the complexity of translating ‘belonging’ into something meaningful for every one of our 8,800 employees. Dimensions of diversity don’t look the same in every country. As Jonathan McBride learned on his first trip to Asia, “there is no word for ‘inclusion’ in Japanese.” So, it’s important to balance our enterprise priority and values with meeting specific needs throughout the organization and around the world. We anchor to a set of core initiatives but have the flexibility to adapt and localize the approaches to make them effective around the globe.

As a consumer company that is inherently people-centric, we realize that just as the societies in which we operate keep changing, so must we. Some of the lessons we have learned:

  • There’s a domino effect. It starts with having representation at all levels of an organization. We have heard again and again that “it is really hard to be something you cannot see.” Improved representation plus the right initiatives to drive inclusion and belonging can have a profound effect at all levels of an organization.
  • The future is here. For the first time, we have five generations in the workplace. These newer generations bring modern norms and expectations related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging; they can help drive the change. Long gone are the days where organizations simply set minority and gender representation goals.
  • Be creative and flex. Inclusion and belonging are abstract and deeply emotional concepts defined by our personal beliefs and experiences. As such, one size does not fit all. Flexibility and “freedom within a framework” allow a wider reach and enable a greater sense of belonging while remaining true to organizational priorities and values.
  • Use storytelling as an accelerator. It can be difficult to bridge gaps. But, sharing your personal experiences with others is a sure way to quickly find commonalities and build familiarity, comfort and trust. On those foundations, we’ve leapt forward toward inclusion and belonging.
  • EVERYONE plays a role. Well-intended efforts can get stuck when initiatives don’t reach the entire organization. Establish a common language at all levels, and set and reinforce the expectation that everyone is accountable. We are a company that cares deeply about our people. Not surprisingly, we have had a long-standing commitment to diversity. In recent years that commitment has expanded to consider more dimensions of diversity, and to leverage inclusion and belonging to get the very best out of our diverse community. The outcomes we seek are both quantitative and qualitative, and require the engagement of our entire organization. We’ve found success, we’ve learned and evolved, and we continue to strive for excellence. This is a team sport, and we work every day to win.


Cloverpop, Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision Making, Cloverpop, 2017.

ModelExpand, The Basics: What is the difference between Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging? May 3, 2018.

Garrett, Geoffery. Why Diversity Is About Much More Than Numbers, LinkedIn, August 30, 2018 and KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON, August 30, 2018.

Eric Solomon cited in Beyond Diversity: How Firms Are Cultivating a Sense of Belonging, KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON, Mar 26, 2019.

Jonathan McBride cited in BlackRock’s Diversity Chief: Do Your Employees Feel They Belong? KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON, May 16, 2018.

Lieberman, M.D., Rock, D., Halvorson, H. G., and Cox, C. BREAKING BIAS UPDATED: THE SEEDS MODEL™, NeuroLeadershipJOURNAL VOLUME SIX | NOVEMBER 2015.

Jonathan McBride cited in BlackRock’s Diversity Chief: Do Your Employees Feel They Belong? KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON, May 16, 2018.