Employees aren’t as optimistic about company diversity efforts as managers. Consultants explain why, and how to change that.

Shot of a young businessman looking stressed while using a smartphone during a late night in a modern office

One year after a wave of civil rights protests pushed CEOs to double down on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Insider surveyed workers on how they think corporate leaders are doing to fulfill their promises.

As part of a series called Cost of Inequity, Insider conducted a survey of over 1,000 professionals, the majority of American workers think business leaders are motivated to improve DEI in the workplace. However, managers are significantly more hopeful than rank-and-file employees.

About 74% of managers said they think their employer’s executive team cares about improving diversity, compared to 63% of workers.

As corporate America faces increasing pressure from investors, employees, and customers to make good on DEI promises, addressing the gap between manager and employee sentiment is crucial. DEI consultants said that leaders who drive employee engagement around DEI goals will be more successful in their goals.

Why managers feel more engaged

Kerryn Agyekum
Kerryn Agyekum, principal of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice at The Raben Group, a DEI consultancy, said companies need to boost employee buy in on DEI efforts.

For Kerryn Agyekum, DEI principal at consultancy The Raben Group, the findings were not surprising.

Individuals who are largely at the worker or individual contributor level are more likely to be from historically marginalized groups, she explained. Data shows managers and leaders, across a variety of industries, are more likely to be white.

“It’s not surprising that workers, individuals who do not have that power or privilege like managers do, have a very different perspective around whether or not an organization’s diversity, equity, or inclusion efforts are having an impact,” Agyekum said. “They are waiting to see results.”

There will be a gap in sentiment until managers are able to really bring about change in their organizations, the DEI consultant said.

Cynthia Orduña, DEI consultant at consultancy Peoplism, credited the gap in enthusiasm to a communication problem. Oftentimes leaders communicate their DEI efforts to managers, but not to all of their employees, so employees aren’t as up to date, she explained.

Leadership can be very scared to be transparent about what’s going on in the background in terms of new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives…They’re afraid of not getting things right. Cynthia Orduña

“Leadership can be very scared to be transparent about what’s going on in the background in terms of new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” she said. “They’re afraid of not getting things right.”

If employees aren’t aware of what’s going on, however, they’re more likely to think that their executive team doesn’t care about DEI efforts.

Orduña said that 63% of workers thinking their executives care about DEI was somewhat disappointing.

“It’s more about, how do we get that number to be 75% 85%?” she said. “If a good chunk of employees don’t think their executives care about DEI, that’s a story.”

Managers were also more likely than their direct-reports to say their company has clear channels for participation in DEI efforts. Some 76% of managers said there were distinct ways to get involved, compared to 68% of workers.

Agyekum said that many managers are being tasked with changing their behaviors, reaching new DEI goals, and having new conversations with their employees. They feel there are concrete ways to participate in DEI efforts, she explained.

However, employees may define “concrete ways of participating” differently. They may be waiting to see more people like themselves in positions of power, they may be waiting for their salary to increase as a result of a pay equity report, they may be waiting to be compensated for their ERG work.

“I think the differentiator is in the definition,” Agyekum said. “Managers and workers may define ‘concrete ways of participating in DEI efforts’ differently.”

When asked about the results of their company DEI strategies, respondents gave a mixed range of outcomes:

Increasing employee engagement

In order to increase employee buy-in on DEI efforts, leaders and managers need to drive results, Agyekum said.

Cynthia Orduña's headshot
DEI consultant Cynthia Orduña said managers need to communicate their diversity efforts more to employees.

She explained that a “war room approach to DEI,” where diversity is treated just as importantly as profits, will communicate to employees that diversity is truly a core tenant of a company’s values.

“If you have managers that are doing well on diversity and inclusion, hold them up as the gold standard and reward them accordingly,” the DEI consultant said. “At the same time, hold folks accountable for not making progress.”

At the same time, leaders and managers need to increase the level of communication around DEI.

More leaders need to be vulnerable and share their DEI journey with workers, Orduña said. Keeping employees informed of what’s going on and sharing ways to get involved in the process will drive engagement. Insider’s survey also found that 50% of respondents said their managers are not incentivized to hit DEI goals and/or hire more BIPOC employees. The other half indicated a mix of bonuses and promotions for making more diverse hires.

There’s a lot of strength, I think, in admitting to people that you don’t have all the answers Cynthia Orduña

“You can even say ‘We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to work as a team to figure it out.'”

In addition to communicating your company’s future plans, it’s important to make sure your employees stay informed on what you’re already doing.

For example, don’t just email once about employee resource groups (ERGS), have ERG leaders speak at company events and send multiple emails about their progress, the DEI consultant suggested. When it comes to new trainings you have, incentivize participation in them and have leaders talk about them in town halls.

C-suite executives should also encourage managers to tell their direct reports about their DEI work.

“It’s about creating mini-cultures that foster inclusion and psychological safety,” Orduña said.

Psychological safety is an environment where people from all backgrounds can feel safe enough to be their whole, true selves at work, without fear of judgment or punishment.

“Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable,” she said.

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The Olympic ban on Afro swim caps – and the backlash it has received – is a huge lesson for business leaders

Swimmer Alice Dearing photographed in a Soul Cap
The Soul Cap, which fits over Afros and thick hair, was banned by the international swimming federation. British Olympic swimmer Alice Dearing is a brand partner with Soul Cap.

  • Soul Cap tried to have its swim caps – which fit over Afros – approved for the 2021 summer Olympics.
  • The governing Olympic body rejected the request, saying it didn’t conform to the “natural” head.
  • Fortune 500 consultants explain why the decision is a teachable moment for other leaders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Maritza McClendon, the first Black woman to make a US Olympic swim team and a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, vividly remembers the sound of her white teammates in high school and college laughing as she struggled to fit her thick, curly hair into her swim cap.

She’d laugh along with them, but inside, she had an awful, sinking feeling. It was one of many microaggressions she endured over the years.

To be Black and a swimmer, she said, is difficult. And a new ruling by the International Swimming Federation, or FINA, makes it even more difficult.

A company called Soul Cap recently tried to have its swim caps – which fit over Afros, locs, extensions, and thick hair – approved for the 2021 summer Tokyo Olympics. FINA rejected the product, saying the caps didn’t follow “the natural form of the head.” Following swift backlash, FINA is revisiting the ban.

In response to a request for comment, FINA pointed to its latest press release on the matter, which said the federation understood the “importance of inclusivity and representation,” and that it would be revisiting the decision at an undisclosed date. As of this writing, no formal announcement has been made.

“It’s just really disappointing,” McClendon said. “The Olympics is the C-suite of sports. What kind of message does this send? It excludes the diversity the sport so desperately needs.”

In addition to calling the ban “ridiculous” and “racist,” consultants who work with Fortune 500 companies on issues of diversity said FINA’s decision is a learning moment not only for Olympic leaders but also for business leaders.

Corporate America has been engulfed in a racial reckoning ever since George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, and many experts said FINA’s swim-cap ban highlights a problematic status quo. Decision-makers must not only welcome opportunities to be inclusive, these experts told Insider, but also question whom these standards of dress and behavior are serving.

“When we talk about something like the Afro cap not conforming to the ‘natural shape of the head’ – Well, the natural shape of whose head exactly?” said Tiffany Jana, the founder of the diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm TMI who works with Fortune 500 companies.

A lesson for all leaders

Maritza McClendon portrait in a pool
Maritza McClendon, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and the first Black woman to make a US Olympic swim team, said the ban excluded diversity that the sport “so desperately needs.”

The backlash against FINA has been swift.

Soul Cap has spoken out against the ruling, saying it discourages many younger athletes from underrepresented backgrounds from pursuing the sport. And an online petition for FINA to remove the ban has garnered more than 59,000 signatures.

That FINA snubbed the opportunity to be more inclusive is a lesson for business leaders, said Jana, the author of “Subtle Acts of Exclusion.”

Jana, who is nonbinary, called the decision “utterly ridiculous” and “a demonstration of white supremacy.” “What is being stated is that the white standard is normal, that it is best, and that it is what’s acceptable.”

Some writers have said that FINA’s language is reminiscent of phrenology, a pseudoscience from the 1800s involving the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. It was used to argue that nonwhite people were inferior because of the shapes of their heads.

Jana said the decision showed a lack of historical and emotional awareness and “overall intelligence.” Kerryn Agyekum, a DEI principal at the consultancy The Raben Group, agreed. Both said it’s no longer OK for leaders to not be aware of how racism has influenced their sector, field, or even company or sport.

Stop policing Black and other nonwhite bodies

There’s a parallel to draw between the ban on the Afro swim cap and the ban, in many professional spaces, of braids, locs, and other ways Black people care for their hair.

Both bans, DEI experts said, are knowingly or unknowingly racist.

“It’s just another expression of how different people, their needs, their expressions, their well-being, and their way of being are not taken into consideration, honored, or privileged,” Jana said.

Oftentimes, the “standard” or “professional” way of doing things – whether in sports or the office – is how white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual people have existed, Agyekum said. The US Army has gone through a reckoning regarding what hairstyles are and aren’t permitted, with new guidelines released this year that allow styles such as cornrows, braids, and ponytails.

The CROWN Act, a bill that prevents workplace discrimination based on one’s hair texture or style, has passed in 11 states, including New York and California. Still, there is no law preventing such discrimination on the national level.

But business leaders shouldn’t wait for the CROWN Act. They should question the status quo, Jana said, and stop policing Black and other nonwhite bodies, or making it harder for them to exist in work spaces.

For example, leaders should reexamine workplace rules around presentation, adjust healthcare policies to include trans and nonbinary people, and make sure their offices are accessible to differently abled people.

“Historically, there was a lack of the ability for Black people to actually swim in pools that were for whites only. Now you have this generation of people who don’t know how to swim for that reason. In the present day, now hair becomes the issue,” Agyekum said. “It’s about exclusion.”

Workplace culture and sports culture can change, Jana said, but only if leaders are willing to put in the work. Take, for example, how women have made gains in the professional world. Many companies now have lactation rooms, offer free menstruation products such as pads, and offer paid parental leave.

“This only happened after we stopped and took a hard pause,” Jana said.

Embrace mistakes to usher in progress

No leader or organization will always get things right, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. But it’s what leaders do after they make a mistake that defines what they stand for, DEI consultants said.

“You don’t get from institutionalized slavery and racism to any kind of international, global utopia without tripping, without learning,” Jana said. “What I’m interested in now is what FINA does next.”

In order for FINA to be an anti-racist organization, Jana said, its committee should not only withdraw the ban but also issue an apology and commit to a full review of its practices.

“Show me you’re doing the work,” Jana said.

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The chief talent officer of enterprise tech company HPE shares her 3 best pieces of career advice for breaking into in-demand industries

Black young businesswoman listening to discussion of lawyers during meeting at office
  • Alessandra Ginante Yockelson is chief talent officer at fintech company Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
  • She said any aspiring professional can achieve their career goals with the right approach.
  • Build your professional and personal confidence and champion diversity at every stage, she said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Each year, more than half of a million professionals apply to job vacancies at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a fintech company based in Houston, Texas. Only 12,000 of these applicants were hired globally in 2019.

Alessandra Ginante Yockelson
Alessandra Ginante Yockelson.

Despite the seemingly low odds of landing a position with this enterprise tech leader, HPE’s chief talent officer Alessandra Ginante Yockelson said that nearly 40% of hires in 2019 were gender diverse.

As a woman and immigrant, Yockelson understands that each professional faces unique intersectionalities. She believes that any aspiring professional has the ability to achieve their career goals even if they’re confronted with societal barriers.

“I come from a very humble family in São Paulo, Brazil,” Yockelson told Insider. “I had to overcome a lot of adversities in the beginning.”

She advises job seekers in every industry to follow these three pieces of advice.

1. Build your confidence professionally and personally

“Believe that no matter where you start from – no matter how limited your resources are or how victimized you are by institutionalized racism – there’s a way forward and a strength in you that will show,” Yockelson said.

Experts suggest that low levels of confidence negatively impact your career, especially if you’re a recent graduate.

To build confidence as a person and professional, consider first embracing your past accomplishments, identifying your weaknesses, and strengthening your resume. Other suggestions include:

  • Learning how to align the skill set, achievements, and knowledge you’ve already developed with the requirements of the role you seek
  • Highlighting the skills or certifications that you lack and identifying ways to formally improve them
  • Continuing to enhance your resume through freelance projects and volunteering
  • Seeking out support from peers to help you remain on-track to achieving your goals
  • When feeling lost, consider taking aptitude tests to help you refocus on your unique motivational drivers, expositional traits, and learning style

2. Utilize free resources

Yockelson recently earned her doctorate in business administration. “Education, I truly believe in my case, has opened doors,” she said.

The pandemic has expanded online opportunities and free resources. Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are among the many universities that offer online courses through edX and Coursera, which also features courses led by companies like Google Cloud.

Yockelson insists that job seekers keep in mind that academia isn’t the sole provider of education. She encourages everyone to seek out diverse experiences outside of their comfort zones, even if that means simply grabbing lunch with people you don’t know at work.

3. Proactively champion diversity at every stage

Regardless of industry, all professionals have the power to champion diversity at every stage of their careers.

Leaders can immediately increase diversity on their teams by expanding the scope of job requirements, standardizing the interview process, and intentionally sponsoring employees belonging to minority groups.

By purposefully and publicly making an effort to counter the “invisibility effect,” leaders can elevate their existing employees while encouraging other diverse candidates in the workforce to pursue these roles.

Achieving certain career goals may seem impossible for those affected by intersectionality in the workplace, but Yockelson is determined to give these diverse professionals hope.

“If they knew my story, they would believe that they could do it as well,” she said.

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6 strategies for creating a robust, multifaceted approach to improving diversity at your organization

D&I training
Create opportunities for coworkers of all backgrounds to gather and talk openly to bring about a more inclusive culture.

  • Diversity trainings are only the tip of the iceberg for improving diversity in the workplace.
  • Organizations need to move beyond implicit bias trainings by following up on their trainings.
  • Treat diversity as a real goal, measure it, and create dedicated spaces for underrepresented groups.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The racial reckoning of spring 2020 prompted much soul-searching at organizations, as companies, nonprofits, and schools realized they could no longer ignore failures of diversity and inclusion. Many quickly rolled out programming aimed at addressing these shortcomings – in particular, diversity trainings.

But training alone can’t address long-standing organizational failings, said Ivuoma N. Onyeador, an assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. “It’s fine to have trainings,” she said, “but trainings are only the beginning of the efforts needed to improve diversity in an organization.”

Read more: Inside YouTube VP Malik Ducard’s push to fund Black creators and amplify their voices online

On their own, trainings can’t address systemic problems: pay inequity, leadership that is mostly white and male, failure to hire underrepresented groups. Additionally, some trainings just don’t work or even backfire. For example, research has shown that implicit bias training – a popular approach that seeks to help participants recognize and overcome unconscious prejudices – does not reliably reduce bias in the long term and may reduce participants’ sense of responsibility over their own behavior. Yet some organizations have implemented implicit-bias training and figured that’s enough.

In a new policy paper, Onyeador, along with coauthors Sa-kiera T. J. Hudson of Yale University and Neil A. Lewis Jr. of Cornell University, explores how organizations can move beyond implicit-bias training. The researchers reviewed the existing literature on diversity efforts in organizations and developed a set of evidence-based recommendations for creating a robust, multifaceted approach to achieving diversity goals.

Here, Onyeador highlights six key takeaways.

Prepare for bad reactions

Diversity efforts may be poorly received. The backlash can range from eye-rolling in a training session to a sense of grievance that underrepresented groups get “special treatment” to outright hostility.

Organizations should be realistic about these challenges and have plans to address them.

“We do this in other arenas – we would never launch a product without anticipating potential snags in the process,” Onyeador said.

Organizations can build support for diversity programs by proactively addressing employee concerns. Majority group workers may fear they’ll be passed over for promotions in the name of diversity or punished for “saying the wrong thing,” or they may simply believe that diversity isn’t important – worries that can be allayed before a new program is introduced by addressing them in ways that fit your specific organizations’ culture and context.

Facilitate intergroup contact – but also create dedicated spaces for underrepresented groups

When majority group members interact with underrepresented groups, their attitudes change. One recent study found that interracial interactions help white people perceive and combat inequality; another showed that, after hearing people of color discuss their cultural backgrounds, white people displayed more inclusive behavior toward nonwhite coworkers. By creating lots of opportunities for coworkers of all backgrounds to gather and talk openly, organizations can bring about a more inclusive culture.

But it’s essential to recognize that intergroup contact may also place a burden on underrepresented group members, who may feel exhausted, singled out, or responsible for teaching others. That’s why it’s just as important for organizations to create dedicated structures such as affinity groups that allow underrepresented groups to gather. In addition to providing camaraderie, these spaces can facilitate career networking and advancement.

“People of color, for instance, are having a very different experience in these organizations than white people, and it can be nice to have a space where you meet other people and solve problems, share resources, and find role models,” Onyeador said.

Messaging matters, but action matters more

It’s easy to sing the praises of, say, your company’s family-friendly policies in a job description. But it’s much harder to actually be accommodating when an employee needs several days off to care for a sick child.

In fact, research shows that organizations that include organizational-diversity messages in job descriptions aren’t necessarily better at recruiting a diverse pool of employees or less likely discriminate against them.

“We want to make sure that both of those pieces are in there,” Onyeador said. Including inclusive language “is important to do, because it signals to your potential pool of applicants that the organization could potentially be a supportive place for them. But then it’s really important to follow that up with action.”

Treat diversity as you would any other organizational goal

Action means creating accountability structures – which, according to one 2006 study, is the single most effective way to improve managerial diversity.

Assigning institutional responsibility “can look a number of different ways, like having a chief diversity officer with some sort of oversight role, or diversity officers within units reporting up to a leader who has the power to hold units and managers accountable,” Onyeador said.

Organizations can also create incentives for participating in inclusion efforts, like bonuses or perks for serving on a diversity council.

“People are very motivated by extra money at the end of the year,” she said. “I suspect that if bonuses were tied to diversity metrics, we would see things shift. We would find the Black engineers. They’re there.”

You can’t improve what you don’t measure

Often, organizations are reluctant to collect and analyze data on diversity programming.

But that mentality wouldn’t fly with any other important organizational objective, so it shouldn’t be acceptable for diversity efforts. If a particular program or training didn’t work, “it’s imperative that we know that,” she said, so it can be improved.

There’s a similar hesitance about studying outcomes for the overarching goals of organizational change. All too frequently, companies will set out to improve diversity – but fail to measure the variables of interest.

Onyeador summarizes the attitude this way: “Did we increase the number of women in the C-suite? It’s not clear. Is the climate different? We have no idea. Are we retaining more people? Nobody knows.” Organizations have the data to answer such questions. Deciding to pay attention to it “will go a long way.”

None of this is easy, and that’s OK

Diverse organizations are not built overnight or by accident. But just because the work is challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In fact, “as organizations, as companies, as universities, we’re used to doing hard things by putting our heads down, figuring it out, being really careful, and thinking through everything,” Onyeador said.

There’s no reason, she said, that the same level of effort can’t be applied to diversity.

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A software CEO reveals how she used the lessons of the pandemic to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace

Panel at Insider's Future of Work virtual event, June 29, 2021, featuring Insider's Rebecca Knight and Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm DreamBox
Insider’s Rebecca Knight (l) interviews Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm, DreamBox

  • DreamBox CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson says diversity should be leveraged for success.
  • Employers must understand what workers want and need, as they now have the upper hand.
  • This was part of Insider’s event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation,” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, on June 29.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

There’s a wealth of evidence that suggests diverse, equal, and inclusive workplaces are more successful – but the pandemic and death of George Floyd forced leaders to truly reckon with this reality.

“Instead of focusing on how to manage diversity, we need to pivot to focus on how to leverage diversity,” Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm DreamBox, said during Insider’s recent virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge from PwC, which took place June 29. “If you really believe that diversity is something to be leveraged and it doesn’t feel like just another project or another obligation, it feels like an opportunity.”

The conversation, titled “Diversity and innovation define the future of work,” was between Woolley-Wilson and Rebecca Knight, senior correspondent for careers and the workplace at Insider.

“Starting out as a woman of color in financial services, the expectations for excellence were either really high or really low,” Woolley-Wilson said. “We believe at DreamBox that diversity is required in order to build empathetic and relevant learning experiences.”

At the height of the pandemic, Woolley-Wilson said she took the unusual step of making the DreamBox digital platform free to help families, students, and teachers combat the equity gaps in education exacerbated by COVID-19.

Internally, she also oriented DreamBox to be guided by three simple principles: take care of each other, take care of our customers, and then by definition, we’ll be taking care of the company.

“We’re at an inflection point,” she said, referring to low unemployment and the changing job market. “The pendulum is swinging, and the leverage is swinging more in the employee camp.”

Woolley-Wilson said the last year highlighted that workplaces need to be more adaptive to the needs of women and racial minorities. Some women might need to work from home more, while others might not have a home environment that’s conducive to work and need to spend more time in the office.

“It’s about being intelligently adaptive, it’s about metabolizing new data, new stimuli from the environment, and meeting people where they are – just like we do with the platform and every individual learner,” she said.

DreamBox also hosts a monthly meeting – the most well-attended meeting company-wide, Woolley-Wilson said – to talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.

“We talked about hard topics like racial bias or white privilege, we talk about things that happen in the current news cycle,” she said. “All those are dealt with in a very open and authentic way.”

She added that MBA programs of the future are going to have to teach leaders how to create “positive gravity” so the best talent chooses them.

“We’re going to have to make sure that organizations are overt and explicit about what they value, because employees now – from the first day of the interview to the first day of onboarding to their first anniversary and beyond – are unapologetic and very courageous and very intentional about what they want and what they need in their professional environment,” she said.

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The Cost of Inequity: How and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America

A receipt with the words "The Cost of Inequity" written on it on on a blue background.

Inequity, not to be confused with inequality, is the result of injustice and cultural exclusion. Cost of Inequity explores how and why inequity persists in the institutions that govern daily life in America while illustrating the real economic cost to society.

From education to the workplace, banks, healthcare and more, this series examines the historical causes, current policies and societal norms that perpetuate unfair, avoidable differences for marginalized groups.

Insider also conducted a survey of over 1100 American workers to examine the challenges businesses face in fulfilling DEI programs. Detailed results of the survey will be published in the coming weeks.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon is investigating allegations of gender bias in its Prime team after Insider reporting

Whole Foods Prime Amazon bags

Amazon has opened an investigation into its Prime team in the wake of internal complaints about gender bias and a hostile workplace culture for women.

The probe, which coincided with Insider’s reporting last week, suggests Amazon is taking the allegations seriously. The company’s Employee Relations Central Investigations unit told one of the Prime employees who filed a complaint that it was taking ownership of the case, according to an email seen by Insider. The team has asked the person to provide additional information about the issue.

“We appreciate you reporting these concerns and take them seriously,” the email said. “Your concerns will be investigated as appropriate.” An Amazon spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Last week, Insider reported on what some employees said was a culture of aggressive male-dominated leadership within Amazon’s Prime unit. Current and former employees described meetings where male leaders used aggressive language toward women. They also said women received fewer promotions than men, and recent internal company data showed only four out of a total of 41 senior leaders under Jamil Ghani, the vice president of Prime, are women.

When contacted earlier this month for comment, an Amazon spokesperson said the allegations did not reflect the culture of Amazon or the Prime team.

“We have worked hard to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture in which all employees feel supported and successful within the Prime organization,” the spokesperson said, adding that the group aimed to double the number of women in leadership roles in 2021.

The allegations are the latest in a series of public accusations about Amazon’s workplace culture.

In May, five current and former female employees sued Amazon, alleging “abusive mistreatment by primarily white male managers.” In February, Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon manager, filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And last year, a high-profile female engineer called on the company to fix what she said was a “harassment culture,” Insider previously reported.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company investigated the cases, found no evidence to support the allegations, and didn’t tolerate discrimination or harassment.

You can read Insider’s original story here.

Do you work at Amazon? Contact reporter Eugene Kim via encrypted messaging apps Signal/Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (ekim@businessinsider.com).

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How the HR chief at Restaurant Brands International holds all of its executives accountable for diversity and inclusion

Jeff Housman
Jeff Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.

  • Jeffrey Housman is chief people and services officer at Restaurant Brands International.
  • Housman has made DEI a priority. All senior executives are now held accountable for DEI goals.
  • Food service overall has a diversity problem. People of color are often concentrated in lower ranks.
  • This article is part of our “HR Insider” series about HR leaders and their noteworthy strategies.

The value of human resources at Restaurant Brands International has always been “pretty clear” to Jeffrey Housman.

But the pandemic made Housman appreciate even more the “role HR can play in supporting people,” he said.

RBI is a 6,300-person company whose brands include Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. About 100 restaurants belong to RBI (most restaurants within RBI brands are owned by franchisees). Housman, RBI’s chief people and services officer, joined RBI from Burger King Corporation in 2016 and has climbed the ranks since. Housman was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators.

When he took on his current role, in 2019, Housman led RBI in doubling down on its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now every senior executive is responsible for cultivating DEI and for making RBI a place where all employees can do their best work.

The foodservice industry overall has been criticized for its lack of diverse representation at the top. According to a 2014 report from the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, ethnic and racial minorities represent 50% of all hourly employees, compared to 31% of general managers. The report looked at 60 brands, including Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, but didn’t include Restaurant Brands International.

RBI has publicly recognized the challenges. A statement published on RBI’s website in July 2020 read, “We acknowledge that we do not have enough diverse employees in our company and in leadership positions,” adding that, “By openly acknowledging our shortcomings, we are creating urgency for action.”

RBI makes DEI every executive’s responsibility

One of the first DEI initiatives Housman’s team spearheaded was a change to the interview process. RBI hiring managers now ask job candidates in their first interview what diversity means to them, and how they’d champion diversity if they joined the team.

And at least 50% of all candidates in the final interview round must be “from groups that are demonstrably diverse, including race.” This goal is tied to bonuses for the entire leadership and executive team at RBI. Chipotle, McDonald’s, and Starbucks have also said they’re linking diversity targets to executive compensation.

Housman’s team accelerated their efforts to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace in 2020, a year in which many business leaders vowed to address systemic discrimination in their workplaces.

RBI released a diversity report that highlighted where the organization was falling short. Leadership, for example, was mostly white and male. Thirty percent of senior leaders were women – an improvement from the year prior – and about 43% of senior leaders were non-white. RBI’s total workforce included 40% women and 47% non-white employees.

Housman’s team led other efforts around inclusion in 2020. Leadership talked about subconscious bias in staff-wide meetings and ramped up training around implicit bias.

Housman is cautiously optimistic that RBI will be able to achieve its DEI goals. “We still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be,” he said. “But in 2020 we acted on our D&I strategy and made really good progress.”

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Laws requiring board diversity are becoming more common – here’s what business leaders need to know

meeting
Retaining diverse board members should be viewed not as a risk mitigation strategy but as an opportunity for growth.

  • Some states have started mandating gender, ethnic, and social diversity across company boards.
  • While certain regulations could include fines for companies that fail to comply, others are advisory.
  • For now, experts say the real pressure to increase board diversity is coming from company investors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Companies have long been talking about how their boards need to be more diverse. But now the legal landscape is changing, with some states mandating that companies do more than talk.

In Illinois, for instance, boards of publicly owned companies are required to disclose female and minority board membership, as well as how they identify and appoint those members. California has gone even further, mandating that boards have at least one woman, as well as a certain number of directors from underrepresented racial, ethnic, or LGBTQ communities. Other states, including Washington, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, have also passed legislation to encourage diverse boards, and more are considering this step.

All of this means that, in addition to being an ethical and reputational imperative, boosting board diversity is quickly becoming a legal one as well. So what should companies keep in mind?

“Because there’s such a patchwork of inconsistent state statutes – and because many of these statutes are looking at different kinds of diversity – it’s very hard, from a compliance standpoint, to figure out a one-size-fits-all answer,” said Mark McCareins, codirector of Kellogg’s JDMBA program and a clinical professor of business law.

That said, there are certain things that companies should understand about this quickly evolving legal landscape.

Read more: We identified 10 corporate board candidates with deep experience in M&A, tech, marketing, and social impact to keep an eye on

At least for now, the real pressure is coming from investors

Not all of these new legal requirements come with teeth. While some of the new state regulations include fines for companies that fail to comply, others are merely advisory.

“Some of the new statutes say, ‘we want to know what you’re doing in this area, but we haven’t decided yet what we’re going to do if you don’t report or you report and the numbers aren’t to our liking,'” McCareins said.

There are also some inherent limits to just how strong their enforcement can be. For example, a company in one state can reincorporate in another if it feels overly burdened by the board regulations.

That’s why, at least for now, the larger incentive is reputational.

“The biggest hammer in all this is probably from a perception in the equity markets that you are not a company that plays by the rules,” McCareins said.

Investors are making their will known in other ways, too. Last year, the NASDAQ submitted a proposal to the SEC that called for instituting diversity requirements. And institutional investors such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and StateStreet have begun bringing shareholder lawsuits against firms over board composition.

“If I’m a public corporation, whether or not I’m currently under state or federal regulation, I’m probably going to be as concerned about what my investor base – and specifically my institutional investors – are thinking about this issue,” McCareins said.

As with other ESG issues such as climate change, McCareins predicts that scrutiny over board diversity from a range of stakeholders will only increase over time.

“Companies want to be ahead of the curve on this and other issues,” he said. “These statutes have brought it into the corporate mindset that there really hasn’t been sufficient progress to diversify corporate governance. So regulators and investors are going to start taking baby steps in the hopes of getting companies’ attention – and in the hopes that they end up doing the right thing.”

Consider your bylaws

All of this means that as companies anticipate new mandates, they must also consider whether their own bylaws could stand in their way.

“Let’s say our company has bylaws where a five-member board all have eight-year terms,” McCareins said. “They have just been appointed in the last year. The company would love to be more diverse, but now we’re stuck with this board for the next seven under our bylaws.”

This can put companies in a legal bind. A company that slow-rolls its compliance efforts may face legal action from shareholders. But if the company takes actions to comply with new state laws and runs afoul its own bylaws in the process, that may create other legal problems.

“You could see shareholder derivative suits against boards for not fulfilling their fiduciary duties,” McCareins said.

Ultimately the power to change the board’s bylaws resides in the hands of shareholders. After all, while boards typically make recommendations to reconfigure their own makeup, they cannot do so unilaterally.

“Let’s say shareholders vote and say, ‘no, we don’t want to change the bylaws,'” McCareins said. “That’s where the rubber hits the road and state regulatory policy runs head-on into the shareholders who own the company.”

McCareins recommends that the board’s governance committee start by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the applicable state DEI statutes.

“Where a change is – or will be – mandated, the governance committee then needs to formulate proposals to reflect these changes in board composition,” he said. “If the governance committee feels ill-equipped to evaluate DEI principles, an outside consultant in such matters can be brought in to assist.”

Embrace the opportunity

There is plenty of good advice out there on how to find and retain diverse board members – and set them up for success. (For instance, see here and here.)

McCareins advises companies to embrace the process – not just as a risk mitigation strategy, but as an opportunity for continued growth.

He recommends codifying the nomination criteria and diversity metrics that would comply with necessary requirements and would fit the company’s goals. In addition to boosting gender or racial diversity, this may also be an opportunity to diversify in terms of professional backgrounds or skills. Or perhaps it is an opportunity to recruit directors who can better represent the voices and experiences of diverse clients, customers, and other stakeholders.

“Every company is different and every company culture is different,” McCareins says. “It is up to the nominating committee to spend time early in the process to identify the metrics which make sense and are attainable for their business.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

CEO of Logitech shares plans for returning to the office, addressing racism and climate change

Bracken Darrell, President and CEO of Logitech
  • Logitech’s tools and accessories played a major role in the global shift to remote work last year.
  • Bracken Darrell, president and CEO of Logitech, told Insider about the process of moving and supporting employees during the transition.
  • Darrell also shared why he feels it’s important to address racism and bias, and climate change moving forward.
  • This article is part of a series about CEOs and their vision for the future called “What’s Next.”

Logitech is one of the largest consumer electronics companies and saw huge success in 2020 with the increased demand for computer tools and accessories to help with the global shift to remote work.

Before joining Logitech in 2012 as president of the company, Darrell led Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric. He added CEO of Logitech to his title in January 2013.

Darrell spoke to Insider about how he ushered Logitech into remote work in 2020 and the company’s return-to-the-office plans for the coming months as the number of administered COVID-19 vaccinations increases. He also spoke on his initiatives around sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This interview is lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Insider: How did you and your teams handle office closures at the beginning of the pandemic? And what types of support were offered to employees to help the transition to working from home?
Darrell: I’d say in the first stage, like everybody else, we tried to give people enough space where we pulled back a lot on the workload because we just didn’t know what was going to happen. We really tried to reduce the workload, and we thought ‘There’s going to be a big learning curve.’

The second thing we started to do was, and this was more informal and probably happened over time, we tried to make fun and laugh about the surprises that happened on video. I have a 19-year-old cat and he began to appear regularly on video. And people’s kids were on video-we just tried to make light of that.

Then we realized, as time went on, people didn’t really have the equipment they needed. So we created a program where… you could go out and buy or order whatever you needed. I think it was $500 and we raised it [over time].

And then we started to see the mental health thing really kick in and people were just stressed. They were stressed and feeling overworked because they were working longer hours. So, we started doing no meetings on Fridays. And then we added one day a month where we gave everybody the day off and we’ve done that ever since. We call them “Logi-Mondays.”

We just keep adding stuff that we think makes sense.

We have one big advantage which is it’s been really rewarding for people that work here because our products played such an important role during the pandemic for students and educators, patients and doctors.

Insider: Are you planning on going back to the office anytime soon?
Darrell: I think we’ll reopen. If I go around the world, we have offices that are already open and have never closed even. But in terms of most of our offices in the US and Europe, we will start to open up in July and then slowly, I’ll be in there too.

We’ll open up like everybody else will, I think we’ll probably have two or three days a week in the office and two or three days a week working remotely, and then we’ll see.

Insider: Is this something Logitech is planning on doing permanently? Allowing employees to build their own schedules of in-office work and at-home work?
Darrell: I was reading Sundar Pichai’s note at Google and thinking that’s pretty much what I think everybody’s doing. Most companies are basically saying, ‘Okay, here’s the framework.’ You know we got some people who are going to work remotely all the time and we’ve always had people who did that-salespeople, some coders, other people. We have another group that is going to be that ‘have to be in the office to do their jobs’-some hardware engineers just don’t have a choice. And then the vast majority are going to be two or three days in and two or three days out.

I think we’ll try to kind of herd everybody into the same two or three days so it feels like a normal office when you’re in. You can bump into people or ideate with people.

But we’re going to wait and see how it goes. I think we’re going to be very flexible.

Insider: Educating the next generation is important, but how does Logitech plan on educating its current employees?
Darrell: I think if you talk to the average employee at Logitech, you get a slightly orthogonal answer to that which is we do have training programs and we try to help people grow. We try to give people freedom-the freedom to do new things and do things a different way.

And it shows up in our internal surveys, we really stand out in that regard, so we’re less about trying to teach people new skills and more about letting people learn new things on their own by giving them new responsibilities or letting them take on responsibilities that are around them. It might sound a little nebulous, but it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in our culture.

Insider: Switching gears a bit. In the weeks after the summer protests broke out, you did a post on LinkedIn sharing how Logitech would address racism and bias. Why was it important for you as the leader of the company to say something?
Darrell: This story is a little longer than you signed up for but I feel like I need to tell it to answer your question.

I grew up in the south with very progressive parents. My mom was as anti-racist as you could be in the time when I was growing up. She was amazing. So we really grew up feeling like we were some of the good guys-my brothers and sister, and I, we were really on the right side of all this and not only this but just generally with LGBTQ [as well].

When George Floyd was killed, it took me a couple of days… I found myself at my kitchen table where I worked every day, just thinking about South Africa and what people were doing then and I don’t know why I started thinking about South Africa. You know, they were sitting there in the middle of apartheid and why didn’t those people speak up? And then I really realized that we’re sitting in American apartheid and I haven’t spoken out. That was incredibly powerful, more for me because I have a platform. I write on LinkedIn and people read it, I have lots of followers.

It was like getting hit in the head with a frying pan, but the pain never went away and it shouldn’t so I immediately started calling friends and apologizing. I just didn’t realize what I’d done, and then it actually changed the direction of my life. I was like ‘Wow.’ I know who I thought I was, but if I’m not doing something… That was the beginning of my very aggressive path to where we are now as an individual and as a company.

Insider: In that same letter, you talked about supporting communities and minoritized groups. What do those actions look like now?
Darrell: We’ve really recentered our whole purpose against these two things which is one we’re already doing and this one we thought we were doing, but we weren’t.

One of them is the environment and the other one is diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI became a central part of our purpose which was to enable all people to pursue their passions. So that’s been our purpose, but [now,] all people.

Part of the Juneteenth letter is really an explanation of how we’re taking an end-to-end approach from our suppliers’ suppliers, through our suppliers. We have as part of our diversity program through our own company-up and down the company-pay, promotion, everything, all the way through to customer experience and who we target and how we enable it.

That’s where we’ve been and it’s obviously a long-term thing. I want to be held accountable personally and as a company. And I want people to track exactly what we’ve committed and we’ll come back on a regular basis.

And if I’m not doing it and we’re not getting it done [rapidly], I should be fired.

We’re the same on the environment. We’re way ahead on the environment compared to where we are in the US, and we’re making up a lot of ground right now.

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