By Ellen McGirt
Updated: November 13, 2017 11:59 AM ET

On Friday I attended an off-the-record, closed-door session of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the first-ever convening of some 70 of the more than 330 CEOs who have taken a pledge to collectively address diversity within their companies and the business community at large.

Fortune has been covering CEO Action from its early inception, in the aftermath of the police shootings of July 2016, through its launch, some eleven months later.

In addition to the senior executives, there were some academics, publishers and other experts in the room, adding depth and richness to the roundtable discussions that followed the on-stage remarks.

While I was there to help put some shape to their thinking on data and the business case for diversity, it was particularly gratifying to see the work being done. It all felt like a promise kept.

“We said we’d meet this fall — within six months of the launch and we met the goal,” said Tim Ryan, PwC’s U.S. chairman, who helped start the initiative. He promised raceAhead more specific updates and announcements in the coming weeks. But what I heard was encouraging, particularly given the enormity of the issues facing a diverse workforce. The conversations were direct, informed and unflinching.

My colleague, Grace Donnelly, was there for the on-the-record portion. Here’s a snippet from her report:

“CEOs can get anything done,” [Tim Ryan] said. “You’ve now got hundreds of CEOs who’ve said ‘I’m going to get this done.’” He was excited at the number of executives who made time for the event and gave credit to CEOs who have joined the initiative despite knowing they’re lagging behind in their attempts to improve diversity at their companies.

Another focus during the Friday session was education. Ryan said he wants to get 100 universities involved with the CEO Action Initiative and the first step is a presidents’ roundtable with nine leaders from institutions of higher education.

The goal is both to help feed the pipeline with diverse young talent and to incorporate bias training and other inclusive concepts into curriculums.

“This is going to be some difficult work,” said Joe Ricks of Xavier University of Louisiana, the HBCU Business Dean President and a member of the CEO Action education roundtable.

He emphasized that even defining “diversity” is a challenge and echoed Ryan’s sentiment that while criticisms are being addressed, credit should also be given where it’s due.

In other news, I’m in beautiful Laguna Niguel, Calif. today, at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, which kicks off today at 4:10pm Pacific time. The two-day conference will be welcoming speakers include Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe, Olympic soccer player Hope Solo, former U.S. CTO Megan Smith, and singer-songwriter Estelle.

You can watch the entire thing here.

I’ll be leading another conversation about the “black ceiling” that black women face in corporate life, tomorrow at 3:55 Pacific time. I’ll be talking with Jamie-Clare Flaherty, director of strategic initiatives, Obama Foundation; Tracey Patterson, senior manager, Accenture, and Bärí Williams, head of business operations, North America, StubHub. You’re not going to want to miss it.


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