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How to build tomorrow’s executive team with an eye for diversity, equity, and inclusion

June 3, 2022, 12:09 PM UTC

Over the last few years, it has become clear that a different type of leader is needed for companies to succeed in the future as customers, prospective employees, and even investors demand more from the business world on sustainability, social impact, and inclusion.

This means not only that today’s leaders need to change their mindsets, but that leadership training and pipeline development need to change, too. The Modern Board spoke with UVA Darden School of Business professor Laura Morgan Roberts to discuss succession planning and inclusion. Here are some of her biggest takeaways:

Make a bigger pool

The pipelines into leadership historically have existed only for a select few. Companies have provided special training, additional opportunities across the business, and even stipends for pursuing outside education—but only to a small percentage of employees. Over the last decade, however, many startup companies have stated a goal of helping companies diversify leadership by making such training available to more people.

Roberts notes that the selection of who gains access to these opportunities is often skewed. She says people in higher levels of power are less attuned to the inner workings of an organization than the rank-and-file. So why not look to employees for input on who their next leaders should be? This would not only democratize leadership development, but also help the executive ranks identify new potential candidates for future management roles, based on who has the respect of their fellow employees.

Either way, one key to diversifying the pipeline is making it bigger. This involves finding more scalable development strategies but also new ways to get people in.

Look for an agile, learning mindset

It’s increasingly clear that the operationally focused managers, who produce numbers but don’t care for their people, are not going to last very long. This operations-first mindset was ingrained for decades with business leaders, who are now being asked to evolve.

“The taken-for-granted assumption that one could just get a position of leadership and then behave however one chooses to and get away with it…is not really panning out,” Roberts says. “The context has changed.”

Instead, leaders who have worked in multiple roles or functions in their careers, or have tangible examples of times when they course-corrected a strategy, or admitted a mistake, are ideal candidates for future leadership roles, Roberts says.

“It’s really more about being agile, being able to read what’s happening in the organization and the industry in the environment, listening to the voices and perspectives of people who are on the margins, having a better understanding of the impact of whatever decision you’re inclined to make on various facets of the organization.”

Develop intentional pipelines for diverse leaders

Many who are currently in power are inclined to believe that their workplace is a meritocracy. This drives a belief that all processes within a business are fair. But this perception has had a detrimental effect on the range of people who make it into the executive ranks. “The default is often, ‘It works for me, and if you truly have what it takes to succeed, it will work for you too,’” Roberts says.

The fact is that more S&P 500 CEOs are named Michael or James than identify as female, and Black CEOs are still a rarity—and fixing this situation requires significant intentional effort.

“Our assessment techniques have often hinged upon whether or not people have good answers to our questions,” Roberts says, pointing out that this subjective analysis opens the door for biased outcomes. “There have always been groups who are marginalized and more vulnerable. They’re scrutinized more heavily for making errors and mistakes, and their successes are also discredited.”

The solutions Roberts mentioned include mentorship programs; emphasizing allyship as part of company culture; identifying how and where underrepresented employees may be receiving heavier scrutiny; a diversity-focused audit of leadership training programs; creating meaningful career paths and development opportunities for all levels of employee; and promoting psychological safety so employees can bring their most honest selves to work.

Aman Kidwai
aman.kidwai@fortune.com

Headlines

Microsoft cuts revenue projections. The tech giant has lowered its projections for revenue and earnings per share due to the strength of the American dollar in foreign markets. The value of the dollar relative to other currencies is at multi-decade highs and other parts of the world are weakening economically, making American goods more expensive for the people there and lowering the value of non-U.S. revenue for American companies. Salesforce has also lowered its projections for similar reasons. WSJ

Job gains are slowing. In May, U.S. companies added the fewest jobs since the summer of 2020, according to ADP. Researchers pointed to a decline in small business employment and limited labor supply as reasons for the slowed growth in employment. Firms with fewer than 20 employees have actually lost jobs for four straight months, and firms with 50 or fewer employees lost 91,000 jobs last month, while larger firms added 219,000. Bloomberg

Sandberg leaving Meta. The COO of the company formerly known as Facebook, and author of the best-selling book Lean In, announced Wednesday that she will be leaving the social media giant. In an interview with Fortune, Sandberg, who joined Facebook from Google in 2008, said, “This is a really important moment for women. This is a really important moment for me to be able to do more with my philanthropy, with my foundation." Sandberg has been one of the few corporate executives to speak out about the anticipated overturning of Roe v Wade, and though she’s staying on the board of Meta, she plans on spending more time with her philanthropy and foundation. It appears she will not be seeking corporate leadership opportunities elsewhere. Fortune

The importance of women’s health. In a new report, physicians and a medical researcher from the University of Michigan outline a state of crisis for women’s health, compounded by structural inequality and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers and families. They say insurance plans should “include coverage for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care without high deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket costs.” Additional recommended measures include paid parental leave and better work-space design. For example, employers ought to allow breaks for mothers, create designated spaces for breast-milk pumping, offer subsidized or on-site childcare, and offer flexible working arrangements to be more welcoming to women at work while also helping them maintain their mental and physical health. HBR

BOARD MOVEMENT

Atmos Energy Corporation has added John C. Ale, former SVP, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Southwestern Energy Company, to its board. VMware Cloud CTO Marc Fleischmann has joined the board of software company LIQID Inc. Brendan Kremer, COO of UC San Diego Health, joined the board of Shadowbox, a healthcare automation platform. Rosie Allen-Herring, CEO of the nonprofit United Way National Capital Area, Washington, D.C., was elected to the board of WesBanco. Terri Fiedler, CEO of AIG Financial Distributors, has joined the board of Archer, an investment technology provider. Teradata has added Todd McElhatton, CFO of Zuora and a former exec at SAP, VMWare, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard, to its board. Anne Margulies, former chief information officer of Harvard University, was named to the board of HarborOne Bank. Robin Matlock, former CMO of VMware, has been appointed as an independent director on the board of MSCI. Bankwell Financial Group has added Darryl Demos, a former EVP at Curinos who sold a company to Verint in 2006, to its board. Information services provider Westat has added three new board members: Kevin Cook, former CFO of Alion Science & Technology; Robin Portman, CEO of Atlas Research LLC; and Linda Singh, former managing director at Accenture and also a former National Guard major general. 

View from the C-Suite

Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon is undertaking a huge revision of his company’s strategy. Though Qualcomm is often overlooked on a tech scene that’s crowded with other, louder, major players, Amon plans to bring his company to a new era by investing in Internet of Things, self-driving cars, and the metaverse.

Amon joined Qualcomm in 1995 as an engineer, later becoming head of the company’s semiconductor business. He’s held multiple leadership roles in his time there, overseeing multiple acquisitions and Qualcomm’s 5G strategy.

In an interview with Fortune’s Phil Wahba, Amon explains why he’s so bought in on IoT and the metaverse. He also discussed his love for restoring muscle cars and how he sees his company factoring into the future of the automotive industry.

Read the full article here

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