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175 CEOs and Counting

June 12, 2017, 8:26 PM UTC

It’s significant leadership news when one CEO makes a public commitment to diversity and inclusion, but it’s capital letter B.I.G. news when 175 of them do it all at once—and vow to share their best practices with the world.

Ellen McGirt, the mastermind behind your regularly scheduled programming here at raceAhead, is so dedicated to this newsletter that she reported on the following corporate diversity news from a cabin in the woods, where the WiFi is spotty and the fish are (hopefully) plentiful.

A new CEO-led alliance—the largest-ever commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace—launches today. Some 175 companies have signed on, including Fortune 500 stalwarts Cisco, Dow Chemical, HP, The Home Depot, Merck, Morgan Stanley, Staples, Target, and Walmart. (Walmart is number one on the Fortune 500 this year.)

The CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion will focus on three main areas: Creating a safe workplace environment for dialog, mitigating unconscious bias, and sharing best—and worst—practices. But the CEO Pledge makes both the business and moral case for diversity.

Here’s an excerpt from it:

The persistent inequities across our country underscore our urgent, national need to address and alleviate racial, ethnic and other tensions and to promote diversity within our communities. As leaders of some of America’s largest corporations, we manage thousands of employees and play a critical role in ensuring that inclusion is core to our workplace culture and that our businesses are representative of the communities we serve. Moreover, we know that diversity is good for the economy; it improves corporate performance, drives growth and enhances employee engagement.

Read more about the initiative on Fortune.

— Stacy Jones (@stacyannj)

On Point

Races Are For Horses, Not ExecutivesYou’ve no doubt heard that General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt is on his way out and will be replaced by John Flannery, head of the company’s healthcare unit. This is a good time for a review of Succession Planning 101, CEO and otherwise. When Immelt won a highly publicized 3-way horse race for CEO in 2001, his rising star competitors left the company. He was touted as the perfect replacement for legendary Jack Welch. Ultimately, though, Immelt struggled to measure up to his predecessor, writes Fortune finance reporter Lucinda Shen. Perhaps pitting high performers against each other isn't best the way to groom a stable of promising leaders. For an alternative view, read what former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy had to say about passing the baton to Ursula Burns. Harvard Business Review

Separate But Equally Troubling
Two soon-to-be-released summer comedies, Rough Night and Girls Trip, have eerily similar plots. Women with families, careers or toxic love interests escape to party, bicker, be united by a common conflict and grow. The difference: Rough Night has a white cast (with Zoe Kravitz playing the token black friend), while Girls Trip has four black leading ladies (with Kate Walsh as a cringe-inducing, code-switching white coworker). It’s a textbook example of how studio assumptions impact audience sentiment and vice versa: Hollywood execs think white audiences won’t see a movie with black main characters. Meanwhile, white audiences say they don’t perceive films with black leads as “for them” because they rarely see them in blockbusters.
The Outline

Greetings from Wakanda
I’ve lost count of how many times I watched the Black Panther trailer over the weekend. It’s a great time to revisit Essence senior editor Rachaell Davis’s exclusive interview with actor Chadwich Boseman, who will star as the film’s title super hero. Boseman is no stranger to iconic roles. The Howard University alum and South Carolina native played Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get Up. When he talked to Essence last year, Boseman explained his decision to play T‘Challa/Black Panther with an African accent. If recent films are any indication, it won’t go unnoticed. Mexican actor Diego Luna kept his accent while playing Cassian Andor in Rogue Onemuch to the delight of Latino and Latina Star Wars fans.

Defrost The Frozen Chosen
Regardless of your denomination, or the lack thereof, you should let Tara-Nicholle Nelson take you to church. In this first-person essay, the author and consulting firm CEO compares companies where employees are fearful of speaking up at work to an eerily silent Presbyterian service she attended in Berkeley, Calif. If you want your workers to believe it’s safe to speak freely, show them you’re not afraid to speak freely, Nelson writes. “You go first. And second. And fifth, if need be,” she says about setting the tone for the kind of open and frank discussions that encourage engagement. “Leaders should be the first to call themselves out, describe their challenges, conduct public postmortems, and review the lessons they’ve learned.”
Fast Company

Annual Reminder To Study History
Did you know Pride, often attached to gay rights parades and demonstrations in June, is an acronym? Or that it’s borrowed from a 1970s gay rights advocacy group? It started as a suit-and-tie event on the Fourth of July called the Annual Reminder, which was originally led by gay rights activist Frank Kameny. Nearly fifty years later, it has evolved into something so big, so eye-catching and hard-to-ignore that it has gained both corporate sponsors and criticism for its association with businesses like Wells Fargo, which lends money to private prisons. This installment for the paper's Retropolis series is bookmarkable.
The Washington Post

Being Marginalized Isn’t a Prerequisite
On Friday, I published another piece that’s part of the series my reporter, Grace Donnelly, and I are writing about our in-depth look at Fortune 500 companies that have been transparent with their diversity data. This time I focused on senior executives at the 16 companies for which we have detailed workforce data. Seven in 10 of the 5,000 execs counted in the data we have are white men, but that need not worry the D&I set. Psychology professor Dr. Kira Banks put it this way: “I think the burden is on the predominantly white men in these positions to be intentional in speaking out about the pipeline and mentoring issues. It shouldn’t be our goal to say, ‘Hey, look, there’s another Asian woman who’s in this leadership position and that means I can make it too,’” she said.“That perpetuates tokenization.”


In the end, your past is not my past and your truth is not my truth and your solution—is not my solution.
—Zadie Smith