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Why A ‘Bull Market Strategy’ For Diversity and Inclusion Isn’t Good Enough

October 22, 2019, 4:02 PM UTC
MPW DC Diversity Beyond Business panel
014rFORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit 2019rOctober 22nd, 2019 rWashington, DCrr7:00 AMrMPW PROGRAM TRACK BREAKFAST CONCURRENT SESSIONS rBEYOND THE BUSINESS CASE FOR DIVERSITY & INCLUSION rHosted by Johnson & Johnson rWhile the “business case” for diversity is clear, progress appears to have stalled and “diversity fatigue” seems imminent. What does it take to make sure underrepresented talent can succeed in the workplace today? How can key decision-makers become allies? As corporations begin to align themselves more directly with social issues ­— like the environment, gun violence, and race — is there a moral case to be made for inclusion work?rKelly Grier, Chairman and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner, EYrCarla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Morgan StanleyrWanda Bryant Hope, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Johnson & JohnsonrAna Recio, Executive Vice President Global Recruiting, SalesforcerKathi Vidal, Managing Partner, Silicon Valley, Winston & StrawnrBarbara Whye, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer; Vice President, Human Resources, Technology, Systems Architecture and Client Group, IntelrModerator: Ellen McGirt, FORTUNErrPhotograph by Danuta Otfinowski for Fortune
Danuta Otfinowski for Fortune

Diversity and inclusion efforts are stalling across many industries because companies have been approaching it with “a bull market strategy,” says Carla Harris, vice chairman and managing director at Morgan Stanley.

“When things are really great, [there’s] lots of money, lots of focus, lots of spotlight” on diversity and inclusion, says Harris, describing the approach in the financial services industry. But any downturn in the market leads to a shift in the focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives, she notes: “It doesn’t go away, but the intensity goes from 10 to one, and that’s when you lose your pipeline.”

Speaking on a panel on Tuesday at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C, Harris and other business leaders addressed how to move from making the business case for diversity to achieving—and sustaining—diversity within their companies.

At Intel, says Barbara Whye, chief diversity officer and vice president of human resources for that company’s Technology, Systems Architecture, and Client Group, they’ve created a “warmline” to offer a safe place for employees. The warmline is essentially an online channel through which employees can relay any kind of concern, including those related to inclusivity.  Exit interviews with employees who feel excluded or uncomfortable don’t often get to the root of the issue, and by that point, of course, it’s too late. With the initiative, says Whye, employees have a way to voice concerns—and the company gets a chance to address them.

Retention is, after all, a crucial step to sustaining diversity and inclusion efforts within a company, says Ana Recio, executive vice president of global recruiting at Salesforce, especially when such talent can’t be so easily replaced.

The approach to sustaining diversity and inclusion efforts at Johnson & Johnson is “an inclusion index,” says chief diversity and inclusion officer Wanda Bryant Hope. People who supervise more than five people receive a score that quantifies the extent to which “their employees believe they’re leading inclusively.” And that kind of review helps lead to specific action, she says. 

Fostering a “feeling of belonging for everyone,” says Hope, can sometimes be simple. “When you’re in a meeting, are you giving other people space to talk?”

More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Summit:

—Retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally on why courage is just as important off the battlefield
—Female directors agree a “blunt instrument is necessary” to get women on boards
Susan Rice calls Trump “erratic and untruthful” and recounts Benghazi fallout
—Peloton’s CFO has “so much sympathy” for WeWork
—Social purpose is imperative for competitive hiring today, executives say
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