Time Is Now: 17 CEOs Speak Out On Urgent Need for Diversity Efforts

The recent racist ad debacle at H & M – a young African American boy sporting a hoodie with the words, “The Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” — points to the necessity for sensitivity training and diversity in decision making at all levels in all industries of leadership and the C-Suite.Diversity and inclusion efforts are about gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, geography, points of view, education, socioeconomic levels and every imaginable factor that makes a person’s identity.A recognition of the urgency for diversity at Uber comes with the recent hiring of  its first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Bo Young Lee. She was brought to the troubled company by “CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has been tasked with overhauling the company rocked by last year’s blog post on sexism and sexual harassment from former software engineer Susan Fowler,” according to USA Today.[bctt tweet=”#Diversity and inclusion efforts are about gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, geography, points of view, education, socioeconomic levels and every imaginable factor that makes a person’s identity” username=“takeleadwomen”]Additionally, the now infamous Google anti-diversity memo led to the author’s firing by Google’s CEO, as new legal action against the company reinvigorates the renewed examination of the company’s diversity policies, efforts and culture.Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead writes, “Google owes it to its future, its customers, and its employees, to commit intentionally to not just continue but to elevate its commitment to diversity and inclusion. If they play their cards right, they can emerge from this controversy as the model company, one where both women and men will want to work there above all because of its commitment to each of them as human beings with unique skill sets and gifts to contribute to the whole.”Efforts for diversity and inclusion are obviously needed everywhere.[bctt tweet=“Efforts for #diversity and #inclusion are obviously needed everywhere.” username=“takeleadwomen”]Julia Owens, CEO of Millendo Therapeutics, one of 20 female CEOs out of 100 giving a company presentation at the recent JP Morgan Healthcare Conference,  says she was “disappointed but not surprised to hear that it’s that low.”At the conference, “men represent 94 percent of the 540 people presenting these high-profile corporate updates at the industry confab. In addition, men represent 77 percent of the speakers for JPM’s special sessions — a slate of talks that includes nine panel events, four of which are all-male panels with no women moderators or panelists at all,” according to STAT News.As Paradigm for Parity, Take The Lead, the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion and many other movements push for culture change in all workplaces,  it seems fitting to examine what CEOs and other C-suite leaders across industries have been saying about the call to action for diversity and fairness in the workplace.[bctt tweet=“It seems fitting to examine what CEOs and other C-suite #leaders across industries have been saying about the call to action for diversity and fairness in the workplace.” username=“takeleadwomen”]

  • “Diversity is not more critical now than before. It has always been critical, it’s just that we’re now only starting to realize that. We’re starting to understand that diverse companies perform better, and that a lack of inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity can have disastrous effects on both performance and brand. We’re also finding the courage—both inside and outside the workplace— to speak up about our fundamental human right to have our identity respected rather than having to conform to a flawed corporate culture,” says Omer Molad, Co-founder of Vervoe.

  • “I had not thought about diversity and gender equality driving productivity, but that’s the point. Organizations that have balanced gender teams drive better return on equity than those that’s don’t. There’s a hard reason for doing it,” says Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, and the longest serving CEO of any European bank.

  • “We should be much more proactive about sponsoring and supporting all types of diversity to get to the senior leadership positions. You cannot be a modern employer in an industry that should be future facing and modernizing arguably much more aggressively than it is without being very demanding on this topic,” Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO, and the first woman CEO of major pharmaceutical company, told Business Insider.

  • “I don’t think there any secrets, just that you hire the best people you can and understand your limits. If I have a success, it is my success and my team’s success,” says CEO of Fuse.It, Liat Sade-Sternberg.

  • “I see a lot of things where we are moving the dial a bit at a time. On a global scale, board diversity is about 18 percent, so clearly this is a problem of opportunity. You need structured debates and perspectives otherwise you have groupthink and confirmation bias,” says Michele Wucker, author and CEO of thegrayrhino.com

  • “Diversity is a priority. This industry (oil) is not an industry that has done well at attracting females and then retaining them. The challenge for our business, our company and our industry is retention over the course of 20 to 30 years,” says ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance, according to World Oil.

  • “There is no way to get the most creative ideas and the best solutions from people with the same backgrounds,” says Peggy Yu, COO of Startup Institute.

  • “I’ve learned over time that visibility and role models are extremely important in diversity and inclusion. We were one of the first firms to have a Partner Advisory Board for LGBT. And this was comprised of openly gay partners in our major markets across the U.S. I believe that visibility of that group has really helped our LGBT community and our allies really mobilize around same-sex benefits with the firms, tax equalization,” Mike Dillon, Chief Diversity Officer at PwC, told Bonnie Marcus at Forbes.

  • “The more diversity we have and the more perspectives, we will come out with better innovations and solutions,” says Eva Wong, co-founder and chief operating officer of Borrowell.

  • “There were 10 men and one woman on my team at first. I had to go with the right person at the right time. But now we have greater diversification and are putting females on our executive team,” says Denise Thomas, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Apple Pie Capital. “We need more women entering the field.”

  • “Unless companies change their approach to diversity from top to bottom, they will never be able to retain top talent and Latinos will never rise to leadership positions. Our focus is on what companies can do now and the steps to get there,” says Patricia Mota, president and CEO of The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement.

  • “What is my personal responsibility? I drive a diversity agenda, but where is my personal role? I question whether I have done enough. We can all question whether you make a difference,” says Rosalind Hudnell,vice president of corporate affairs at Intel Corp., on the company’s $300 million Diversity in Technology Initiative.

  • “It cannot just be an introduction from the head of diversity. It has to be what the CEO cares about and the leadership team cares about. Until that happens, it doesn’t matter,” says Kristi Riordan,chief operating officer at Flatiron School, an outcomes-focused coding bootcamp offering software engineering education in New York and online.

  • “You see groups demanding people be held accountable for they treat women, pay, diversity numbers—it is all much more forceful. You also see more junior women see that tech is more attractive as a career choice,” says Maia Bittner, tech startup investor, advisor, engineer, and Pinch co-founder.

  • “You have better returns with diverse teams. Making change and taking action is about men and women together, about community, family and the workplace,” says Karen Gordon, WE Design Think Founder and Chief Design Facilitator.

  • “On the one hand I am a woman of color in a space without many women of color. So companies when they think about wanting to diversify, they come to me. But when it comes to getting paid, people are either reluctant to pay me or do not expect to pay me. I have to speak up, own my value and my work,” says Keisha Howard, founder of SugarGamers.

  • “We are hardwired to connect, to share ideas, to combine resources, and yes, to change the world. When you bring together a diverse group of women, magic happens. We’re influenced by each other’s take on things, and new ideas begin to evolve. We draw from each other’s energy,” says Nancy D. O’Reilly, author, founder and president of Women Connect4Good, Inc. “Something entirely new is born, and it’s often far greater than anything one person could have come up with alone.”

  • “Paradoxically, diversity is both companies’ greatest opportunity for growth and innovation and their greatest fear because their leadership often lacks the skills or sensibilities to facilitate the inherent value of diversity and inclusion. To help solve that problem, I’ve created a workshop I call Gender Bilingual Communication to help men and women communicate more effectively in the workplace. It’s applicable across cultures too,” says Take The Lead’s Gloria Feldt.

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