CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion Turns Two: RaceAhead

June 17, 2019, 8:39 PM UTC

CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the coalition of some 650 C-Suite leaders dedicated to advancing the cause of workplace diversity, turns two this month.

They’ve certainly been busy.

The CEO Action site now has over 600 inclusion best practices which have been crowd-sourced from members. In addition to sharing bias mitigation training online, the organization has also created and launched a “Check Your Blind Spot” tour – a tech-enabled bus that can offer visitors powerful immersion experiences of bias and exclusion – which has visited, whistle-stop style, over 100 organizations.

And the CEOs have been talking the talk.

Their ongoing “Beyond the Bottom Line” video series stars the CEOS of Citi, WP Engine, PwC, Ashley Stewart and Tapestry, all talking candidly with more junior employees about how they view inclusion at their firms. While the CEOs were uniformly excellent, the conversations were hosted in parts by Y-Vonne Hutchinson, a truly exceptional D&I expert, and Founder and CEO of the consultancy Ready Set. (I recommend the videos for anyone who wants to get better at hosting panels or conversations that include topics about bias.)

Last December, 150 of the member companies simultaneously held a “Day of Understanding” by hosting a series of candid meetings designed to explore ongoing barriers to inclusion in their workplaces. Nearly 620,000 employees participated in some form.

“We’ve learned a lot about how to make this work have impacts at scale,” PwC’s U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan told me as he prepared to film an anniversary webcast to members last week.

Ryan sounded excited and deserves to be. He’s worked hard.

When I first met Ryan in the summer of 2016, he walked me through the pivot heard around his world, when the then-freshly minted U.S. Chairman took his post only to find a country being torn apart by issues of race, violence, and police overreach. It was an emergency, yes, but part of a broader set of issues that, in his mind, could no longer be ignored:

“I got the team together and asked what they thought we should say or do about what was happening,” he says. “I knew it had to be something.”

That “something” started as a series of emotional, companywide conversations about race that continue to this day and have transformed PwC leadership and emboldened employees. It has also changed the way the firm thinks about leadership development for PwC and the world. PwC plans to make its antibias training, already mandatory for new employees and those who are being promoted, available to the public for free.

And then he uttered the words that would eventually grow into an alliance of like-minded companies, including competitors: “Wouldn’t it be great if all the CEOs of the Fortune 500, who employ millions of people in the United States, came together and acknowledged that, notwithstanding everything we’ve tried, we can do even more about race?”

Speaking of great, last week, the CEO Action Steering Committee issued a new commitment for year three: Every CEO Action member must have or develop a diversity and inclusion strategic plan prepared by management and reviewed with their board. Don’t panic, says Ryan. “How companies do that has a high degree of flexibility,” he says. “Every company has a different set of facts, they’re at a different point in their journey. But it’s still a big move.”

RaceAhead plans to do our part with some follow-up stories, already in the works, on how some of the companies are tackling this quest and what’s top of mind for some of the CEOs. We’ll also be sharing as many resources as we can in support of this cause.

For his part, Ryan is continuing to tackle things one conversation at a time, spending as much one-on-one time as necessary with his chief executive peers who need more time to see the road ahead. Many of them are also his customers. “Leading change is hard,” he says. “My worry is that people will give up, especially when progress is hard to see.” But, he says, it’s the work. “Leaders disrupt the status quo, even when it’s not easy, even when it’s not popular.”

On Point

Crimes against LGBTQ people on the rise in the U.K.A new analysis from the Guardian finds that homophobic and transphobic crimes have more than doubled in England and Wales in the last five years. The entire breakdown is troubling, but a snapshot tells the story: The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% between 2013-14 and 2017-18; In the most recent dataset available (2017-2018) police recorded 11,600 crimes, up from 4,600 in 2014. The crimes are often violent and include harassment and stalking. “What we see in our services is lots of people experience day-to-day verbal attacks or violence and aggressive language and homophobic attitudes … We do believe the political climate has had an impact,” says one expert.The Guardian

Cast of The Handmaid’s Tale films a pro-choice message
For fans of the show, it may be jarring to see many of the cast members out of character, all the while addressing the very real issues that have become the emotional core of the drama: Women’s health care, autonomy, and choice. The video is a production of, Planned Parenthood and addresses some of the facts around abortion care access: Some 303 pieces of legislation restricting or banning abortion have been filed this year alone. “We are in a public health crisis… this is not Gilead,” it begins.
Harpers Bazaar

Aaron Philip is continuing to have a moment
Philip is the first transgender model with a disability to be signed to a major modeling agency, and she made her runway debut last week at WILLIENORRIS WORKSHOP. By all accounts, she was fabulous. Philip uses a wheelchair for all her sashaying and werking, and was in excellent and diverse company. Dazed Digital first reported the show here, later, Philip shared her joy with Teen Vogue. “I hope this sets an example showing that models like myself who happen to be black people who are trans and/or physically disabled are capable of doing runway and that the fashion industry can take steps towards normalizing this- through conversation on a ground level and corporate level.”
Teen Vogue



On Background

How to improve your chances of getting that elusive promotion
Employees are about 50% more likely to remain at the same level in their company compared to 2008, as employers (faced with a limited number of management positions) opt to offer more lateral moves than promotions. Frustrated by being passed over, many employees quit in search of opportunity elsewhere. But, as Vicki Brackett, author of The Leadership Toolbox: 14 Strategies That Build a Chain Reaction of Success, tells Fortune, for those who stay, there are ways of upping your chances of getting that promotion the next time around. Understanding why your coworker was chosen can help target where you could strengthen your performance. As Brackett asks: “What has he or she been doing that you haven’t?” Other steps include grooming a potential replacement, and demonstrating you can be a leader.

New research uncovers a promising strategy to help prevent death by suicide in teens
Teens who have been hospitalized for either suicidal ideation or an attempt are at greater risk for ultimately dying by suicide. Where hospitalization is effective during a crisis, the transition back into their lives remains fraught, a situation which has confounded experts until now. A group of researchers from the University of Michigan has found a promising idea: train adult volunteers, identified as trustworthy by the teen, to become empathetic listeners and longterm supporters. It’s a particularly novel strategy because it focuses on the behavior of the adults. And it’s working: In a decade-long follow-up study, teens who had a team of trained, trusted adults to help them stick with treatment were seven times less likely to die by suicide.

The Muslim tradition of science and speculative fiction
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad has a wonderful resume: he’s a senior data scientist at Groupon, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Washington. He is also an inventor and artist. And he’s proud of the long Muslim tradition of speculative writing and fiction, begun during the Islamic Golden Age (8-th to 13-th centuries) and designed, in part, to explore the human challenges of cultural integration during a time of rapid territorial expansion. He says the first Arabic novel, Alive, Son of Awake, was about a child raised on a remote island by a gazelle, with no access to human culture until he meets a castaway. Please credit the Muslim world for an early entrance into feminist fiction, with Sultana’s Dream, a 1905 feminist tract set in a world called ‘Ladyland.’

Tamara El-Waylly helps produce raceAhead and assisted in the preparation of today's summaries.


It's been an example of a work escaping from its name — its box — and coming alive through the imaginations of its readers. I can't even say that it is "my" 'Handmaid's Tale'…I haven't been inside the room when some of what I imagine to be the more gender-laden conversations have been taking place. Let's say the writers do understand the nuances of day-to-day intra-female power struggles, and the importance of who speaks and who does not speak to women, and who smiles or does not smile at whom, and who helps or hinders whom, and why. And who has power to do what—even though it may not be official power. An all-male writing room would probably not have grasped those things.
—Margaret Atwood

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