Diversity Thought Leadership

Ethisphere’s Global Ethics Summit Recap: Diversity as a Business Imperative

A recurring discussion at Ethisphere’s two-day Global Ethics Summit in New York City was how diversity and inclusion initiatives are changing the way businesses operate, altering everything from hiring practices and internal communications to consumer outreach.

The March 14 morning plenary session “Diversity: A Company and Performance Imperative” considered diversity from the perspective of an executive.

The three panelists — Oris Stuart, senior vice president and chief D&I officer at the NBA; Ilene S. Gordon, executive chairman of Ingredion Incorporated; and Deborah Wright, a board member at Voya Financial, Time Warner and Citigroup — along with moderator Preston Clark, president of higher education and corporate compliance at EVERFI, discussed their excitement for a corporate world populated by inclusion-focused work cultures, while also outlining some of the new pressures and obligations that come with D&I.

Here are three takeaways from their panel:

1. Metrics help prove internal D&I successes.

The panelists agreed it’s important for businesses to decide on a comprehensive way to measure their diversity and inclusion growth, whether it’s through hiring statistics or internal polls about company culture.

“What you measure is what you manage,” said Gordon. “It’s very important to have metrics.”

Stuart added that metrics are key in driving external perception changes; if you can prove your company has become more diverse with actual facts and figures, then people are more likely to support you going forward. “Our metrics are closely linked with our business ambitions,” said Stuart.

This also extends all the way up to the board level, too. “It’s important that shareholders elevate the diversity discussion,” said Wright. “Everyone is laser-focused on return but you [need to] look at customer base changes. You can’t say that a board table that’s not diverse is representing the customer base.”

2. Job candidates want to know about company diversity.

Stuart said that diversity metrics aren’t just important in informing consumers — they also help prospective employees know about their future work environment.

A 2017 survey from IPR and Weber Shandwick found that 47 percent of millennials consider the diversity and inclusion of a workplace before selecting a job, an emphasis the panelists say they’ve witnessed first-hand.

“I’ve got more and more people asking penetrating questions about what [our] work environment is like,” said Stuart. “Employee candidates are going to be putting pressure on you to make sure the work environment is inclusive.”

3. Board members can push for D&I, but the CEO makes the final call.

Though the board of directors doesn’t often deal with the day-to-day functions of a business, they still can emphasize diversity initiatives. However, it’s ultimately up to the CEO to decide how such initiatives will be applied.

“As a board member, you have to be careful,” said Gordon. “The role is to support the CEO; not to lead. I’m very careful to ensure the CEO and the team lead set the strategy. Whatever room you’re in, you can really be the pioneer.”

Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications.

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