Effecting Real Progress in Executive Diversity and Inclusion

Source: Adam Payne and Dana Kaminstein, MIT Sloan Management Review, February 24, 2021
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Why diversity and inclusion efforts often fail to produce the intended changes, and proactive approaches leaders can take.

Well-run companies expect good returns on their spending, and leaders who continue to support initiatives that don’t produce results usually find themselves demoted or fired. So why have the billions of dollars that many organizations have spent on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts produced so little substantive progress toward greater diversity?

Numerous reports indicate that the percentage of Black people in the leadership ranks of large U.S. companies hovers at just above 3%. This percentage remains persistently low despite large investments in diversity and inclusion training, the creation of offices of diversity and inclusion, and other companywide initiatives. Studies now indicate that DEI training rarely improves an organization’s record of hiring or promoting Black people. Companies that bemoan a dearth of qualified Black candidates for leadership roles rarely consider that the hiring process itself may disqualify potential applicants of color.

Aware of the ways in which organizations defend themselves against change that threatens their social structures, philosopher and social theorist Donald Schön noted that organizations will “fight like mad to stay the same.”…