The need for a new narrative about disability
It is time for the reinvention of disability to be of paramount importance for the business of the 21st century, argues Jonathan Kaufman. “Organizations can no longer simply relegate disability under the supervision of human resources, diversity and inclusion or even that of corporate employee resource group,” he writes in a Forbes blog post. “The disability narrative must be expanded into the larger fabric of the value proposition of any company and needs to be understood as a critical component to business operations.” While the disability community has done great work on raising awareness, Kaufman believes it is time for business leadership to get involved in the conversation. “To hear that the knowledge of disability can be a critical tool for business leaders to create a more comprehensive strategy across the organizations may take some getting used to. However, this can serve as the foundation for developing the next phase of business strategy, where we make our wound into our bow and see that our greatest strengths can come from areas that may be deemed weak and vulnerable but rather are just a new perspective that has valuable insight that will be beneficial to the entire business environment,” he writes.
Corporate support for U.S. Equality Act
Pride Month has begun and while the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) equality is far from over, corporate America has stepped up in a big way, claims Ellen McGirt. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, legislation designed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, education, housing and other areas. More than 200 major brands and companies (including Accenture), with a combined 10.4 million employees and $4.5 trillion in revenue, publicly support the legislation and have joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act. “By comparison, the only companies publicly supporting the 2015 version of the legislation were Apple, The Dow Chemical Co. and Levi Straus & Co.,” McGirt writes in Fortune. “The corporate shoulder to the wheel is welcome. Obviously it sends a good message.”
The fallacy of meritocracy
While the focus on diversity of senior leadership and corporate boards intensifies, the fallacy of meritocracy lingers, claims Kimberly Jinnett. “Even as executives across industries assert their good intentions—We would like more diversity in senior leadership—they confirm their bias—But we also have to make sure we get the best people,” she writes in an HR Executive blog post. “The second half of the statement is a cringe-worthy moment for some, a matter-of-fact assertion for others. Its ill-seeming nature may be attributed to what it implies: that seeking talent beyond white males takes us into sub-standard territory. It assumes there are simply not enough qualified women, people of color, or others from diverse backgrounds from which to select potential candidates.” She believes even those who think they are objectively basing decisions on merit often introduce the most bias in their assessments. “The partial cause for this may be attributed to systemic biases that exist outside of the workplace in our communities, culture, and educational system,” Jinnett writes. “These systemic biases reinforce hiring, retention, promotion and pay problems in the workplace.” She acknowledges that her assessment may be a “hard pill to swallow for some,” and advocates for more accountability and transparency. “We should want senior leaders who aren’t afraid of accountability,” Jinnett writes. “They should be able to examine their own potential biases, and hear the viewpoints and perspectives of others.”
How to measure inclusion in the workplace
Inclusion is key to creating organizations in which employees feel a strong sense of belonging and are able to perform at their peak, yet it has proven difficult to measure, argues Paolo Gaudiano. “We can develop a list of activities and events that should be experienced equally by everyone, and find out whether any individuals have felt ‘incidents of exclusion,’ i.e., negative experiences that they felt were the result of their ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, or other personal traits,” he writes in this Forbes blog post. Gaudiano lists nine “inclusion categories,” which everyone in the organization should be able to enjoy: access and participation, skills use and assignments, learning and growth, compensation and benefits, promotion and career opportunities, work-life balance, recognition, respect, and workplace interactions. “You will find that the more an individual differs from the ‘normative majority’ of the organization, the more likely they are to report incidents of exclusion across these categories,” he writes. “By quantifying inclusion through these categories, leaders will be able to find out the specific areas that represent the largest risks and most significant opportunities.”
Making workplaces work better for people with disabilities
Disability inclusion is not only a moral imperative, but also brings financial benefits to companies, argues Gary Braithwaite. In a Talent Culture blog post, he cites Accenture’s “The Disability Inclusion Advantage” report, which found that the organizations that stand out for leadership in disability inclusion performed better in key financial metrics. Braithwaite says there are a number of practical things organizations can do to welcome a more diverse workforce, ranging from making physical adaptations to the workplace to providing training and information in accessible formats. “Deciding which are actually implemented depends on the state of your staff as a whole, and finding out which areas to focus on can be done through regular feedback from employees, pulse surveys and engendering an open and honest environment,” he writes.
The Federal Reserve’s diversity problem
The fact that only one African-American and seven women have served as president at any of the Federal Reserve banks since its founding in 1913 is problematic, claims Ruth Umoh. “Within the Federal Reserve, this lack of diversity can create blind spots on critical issues that impact historically underrepresented groups,” she writes in Forbes. Since the 2008 financial crisis, legislators have made various attempts to diversify the Fed. A 2010 clause added to the Dodd-Frank Act established offices for the inclusion of minorities and women at all 12 Federal Reserve banks, requiring each agency to monitor its workforce and supplier diversity. This January, Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) introduced a bill that would ensure at least one racially, ethnically or gender-diverse candidate is interviewed for all presidential vacancies at Federal Reserve banks. The Senate is also considering similar legislation. “You have to change your mindset about what you think [are] the right criteria. But once you do that, I think what you’ll find is there are very high-quality people out there,” said Cleveland Bank president Loretta Mester.
Animated short film tackles workforce diversity
Pixar has released an eight-minute animated short film titled “Purl,” emphasizing the importance of workplace diversity and inclusivity. The film’s protagonist, Purl, is a fuzzy pink ball of yarn employed at a company made up entirely of men in suits. She is ignored, shut down at meetings and excluded from out-of-office events. “As with any Pixar production, the film is cute, but it also tackles two long-running complaints about male-dominated industries like tech and venture capital: They’re still way behind in terms of hiring diverse teams and publicly reporting those figures,” Emily Canal writes in an Inc. review of the film. HR managers say these two things are key to preventing toxic or alienating work cultures. She also notes how the film highlights the other challenge companies face: The failure to properly onboard employees. “The person assigned to greet Purl on her first day at B.R.O. Capital spends most of his time checking sports stats, gawking at her, and eventually texting his pals about the new recruit instead of introducing her,” Canal writes. “This is the kind of HR failure that can do a lot of damage in the first few days when a new employee wants and needs to integrate into a team.”
How to improve workplace diversity
In an interview by David Gelles for The New York Times, Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet talked about working on creating true gender equality at the office. “I don’t think it is rocket science,” she told Gelles. “You first have to decide if diversity is a business priority. If it is, then you need to treat it like a business priority.” Sweet outlined the four steps for diversity in the workforce: set goals, have accountable leaders, measure progress and have an action plan. “Forty percent of companies don’t even have a plan to advance leadership. Less than 40 percent look at attrition between men and women. They’re not collecting data,” she said. “You can look at that with disappointment, or you can say there’s a huge opportunity here. By putting in place pretty basic things, you should be able to make progress.”
Disability inclusion is good for business, our new research finds
Last week Accenture’s Chief Compliance Officer Chad Jerdee launched our new research, Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, at a special event at the New York Stock Exchange. The study, conducted in partnership with Disability: IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), reveals that companies that embrace and improve their policies and practices for inclusion of disabilities in the workforce significantly outperform their peers. The 45 companies that we identified as standing out for their leadership in areas specific to disability employment and inclusion had, on average over the four-year research period, 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than their peers. Our analysis also revealed that the GDP of the United States could get a boost of up to $25 billion if more persons with disabilities joined the labor force. “It should be a pretty huge ‘aha moment’ for Fortune 500 companies—and one that merits a lot of discussion at the top levels about how to redefine disability employment,” Denise Brodey noted in Forbes.
2018’s best U.S. companies for multicultural women
Working Mother magazine has announced its list of 2018 Best Companies for Multicultural Women. The annual list recognizes companies in the United States for creating and using best practices in hiring, retaining and promoting women of color. The Working Mother Research Institute assesses companies with at least 500 employees in the U.S., tracks their progress and evaluates their representation at every level of management and decision-making. Many financial services firms made this year’s top 25, including: The Hartford, U.S. Bank, State Farm, Allstate, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Prudential. Here at Accenture, we are proud to have made the top 5 in the 2018 Best Companies for Multicultural Women for the fourth year in a row, as well as making the top 10 in the 2018 NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women for the seventh consecutive year. The full list and the individual profiles of companies are featured in the June/July issue of Working Motherand can be viewed at workingmother.com.
‘Diversity as a business imperative’
Accenture’s North America CEO Julie Sweet sat down with CNN’s Poppy Harlow for a Boss Files podcast last week, where she talked about why diversity was critical to business. “Diversity, I think, has become a real business imperative at the very top with CEOs who are facing massive disruption. That, I think, is why we’re at an inflection point,” Sweet said. She outlined Accenture’s gender parity goal (50-50 in the workforce) by 2025 and explained why transparency of hiring statistics was crucial. “One of the reasons we shared our numbers, they weren’t because they were great, they were in order to have a transparent conversation,” she said. “We’re going to be honest about where we are and where we want to go.” Sweet also emphasized the importance of workforce diversity beyond gender. “Last year, for the first time, we set goals in terms of hiring African Americans, Hispanic Americans, veterans. We’ve announced that we want to hire 5,000 veterans by 2020,” she said.
Millennials on diversity
Workforce diversity was a hot topic in 2017 and looks to remain in the headlines in the new year. “Who do millennials trust in diversity: Corporations or government?” ponders Anna Johansson in this Forbes Under 30 column. According to a Harvard University poll, 88 percent of millennials said either they sometimes or never trust Wall Street, while 82 percent said the same for the U.S. Congress. “It turns out, they don’t trust either one,” Johansson writes. “Instead, they trust themselves, and soon might have the power to change both institutions as they see fit.” She claims the generation’s biggest advantage is its demographic power, pointing to how it recently became the largest generation in the United States with a population of 75.4 million. “They’re the ones with the buying power. They’re the ones looking for new job opportunities. They’re the ones voting,” Johansson writes. “If they wield that power selectively, they have the power to reshape both corporations and the government, and there’s evidence to suggest they’re already doing it.”