The 12th Annual National Elite Business Leaders Conference & Awards Gala presented by Diversity MBA concluded on September 28-29, 2018 at the Marriott Marquis in Chicago. This two-day event was the culmination of Diversity MBA’s efforts to recognize leaders, acknowledge the achievements of businesses around diversity and inclusion, and, ultimately, inspire change for the society as a whole. The past year’s theme—”Together, Towards Tomorrow”—succinctly captured the call to work together for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. As the event’s media partner, Bold Business had the opportunity to speak with leaders and participants of this conference.
What Diversity MBA stands for
Diversity MBA has been instrumental in inspiring conversations around inclusive diversity. Their focus is to inform and equip leaders on what it takes for them to succeed. They lead the discussions on business trends and help organizations get the most from their workforce. Diversity MBA helps connect leaders through their publication and social media reach. They also help organizations through research, multiplatform training programs and conferences. Lastly, Diversity MBA has been influential in advancing the cause for creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce by recognizing companies and leaders exhibiting solid diversity and inclusion strategies.
Sharing Best Practices for Inclusive Diversity
The year’s roster of awards included two annual award categories—50 Out Front (Best Companies for Women & Diverse Managers To Work) and Top 100 Under 50 (2018 Elite TOP 100 Executive & Emerging Leaders)—plus three leadership citations—Impact Award, Diversity Champion Award, and Hall of Fame award. These recognitions were handed out to leaders whose notable contributions helped advance the cause for diversity and inclusion.
The winners of 50 Out Front winners were a good mix of companies from across all industries. Pam McElvane, CEO of Diversity MBA, says, “We continue to be excited with the cross industries and disciplines participating in our survey. It represents that the business case for diversity and inclusion is relevant no matter where you sit.”
The conference topics for the year focused on the challenges leaders and managers encounter in creating a work environment that is truly diverse and inclusive. Some of the hot topics that were included are workplace biases, wealth and talent gap, the impact of e-commerce, managing conflicts, and supporting courageous conversations. Additionally, the organizers modified the format of the talks to allow a more collaborative discussion and sharing of best practices.
The keynote speakers were Vivica A. Fox—actress, producer, television host and, now, book author; and Nielsen’s Chief Diversity Officer Angela Talton. Vivica A. Fox offers inspirational and start-today tips for living through her inspirational memoir, “Every Day I’m Hustling.”
On the other hand, Angela Talton is one of the few seated diversity executives who report to the CEO. This case affords Nielsen’s diversity officer the ability to introduce innovative, inclusive diversity to the workplace. It is no surprise that Nielsen was awarded as that year’s No. 1 in the rankings of 50 Out Front’s “Best Places for Women & Diverse Managers to Work.”
Segregation and Division vs. Diversity and Inclusion
Segregation and division can take many forms—gender, age, race, social status and physical challenges. It can happen anywhere, and the workplace is no exception. However, businesses have the power to take down these divisions through overall strategies that encourage openness and inclusive diversity.
Business leaders taking deliberate steps for diversity and inclusion are helping create an environment that allows people to be their authentic self. This intentional approach enables employees to contribute better to the growth of the company.
Merck’s Vice President of Human Resources & Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence, Celeste Warren, shares, “Diversity is making sure that the population is diverse, that the employee base mirrors our patient base, our customer base. We want to make sure that we are getting them into the organization, retaining them and helping them to be as productive as they can be in the service of our mission. The inclusion piece is making sure that we are creating an environment where everyone can be successful, productive and engaged and empowered to do the best that they can. You want to create an environment that allows people to bring their authentic selves to work. It allows them to not worry about having to have to cover or be someone else or hide some aspect of themselves or downplay it, but just being able to come in and be productive and be able to service our patients and our customers and driving strong health outcomes.”
Advocating for Diversity and Inclusion—The Benefits
When businesses take diversity and inclusion seriously, the benefits are profound and revolutionary:
- Variety and diversity inspire innovation. Each person carries with him a unique voice and view of the world. When leaders blend various ideas and put them out in the open, it gives one an opportunity to think of numerous ways on how to solve issues. Angela Talton, chief diversity officer of Nielsen, says, “When you think about that innovation, you have to think about diversity and inclusion. I like to say diversity plus inclusion equals innovation and growth because that’s exactly what has happened. Listening to those new voices, those diverse voices, and those new ideas around how to innovate and change the business. That’s how we’ve been able to grow and change it.”
- A diverse workforce can better understand and serve a diverse customer base. This end can be achieved by having demographics that match the customer base. Currently, the United States’ workforce demographics include 12 percent Black, 18 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian. If the aim is to meet this goal internally, a company’s workforce should fall around this ratio.
- A robust diversity and inclusion strategy increases revenue. Research shows that companies with a more diverse workforce are more likely to perform better financially. In a research conducted by Mckinsey and Company in 2015, companies with high gender and racial diversity scores reap 15 percent and 35 percent better financial results. Why is this so? Increased diversity is correlated with factors such as talent attraction, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and company image. These factors are known to have financial implications.
- Businesses that support diversity and inclusion efforts are helping society to be more inclusive and open. An individual is both a citizen and an employee. Hence, whatever is happening in the business sector will spill over to society at large. Conversely, the business sector is not immune to the challenges the society. There is no way that you can segregate these parts.
James Taylor, chief diversity officer of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, concurs, “It’s my belief that that organizations that are most progressive and that understand the sense of inclusion and diversity and what it means to meet folks where they are, create space and provide them with skills that will not just help [one] be a better employee while…at UPFC—but it will help [one] be a better community member, …be a better parent, …be more engaged and more versed in all aspects of not just [one’s] career but my life.”
- A diverse and inclusive workforce future-proofs the business. By 2045, America is projected to be a minority-majority country. Moreover, with technology and the movement of people, borders will be blurred, and cultures will inevitably mix. Companies operating on a global scale should create strategies on how to prepare their employees and leaders to be culturally competent. Thus, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace now will pave the way for a more culturally-open workforce.
Diversity and Inclusion—On the Right Track
The discussion about diversity and inclusion is just beginning. Currently, there are only three black CEOs in the Fortune 500 companies and only 24 female CEOs. Clearly, more work needs to be done. Nevertheless, with the success of this Annual National Elite Business Leaders Conference & Awards Gala, the organizers are confident that things are on the right track.
Perhaps, as we move forward in taking bold steps towards a brighter future of diversity and inclusion, it’s time to re-think Aristotle’s words, “Of mankind in general, the parts are greater than the whole.”