Companies are facing increased pressure to ensure they have a diverse workforce – in relation to age, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, and physical conditions. There are several steps that may be taken by executives who are committed to diversity & inclusion, according to one workplace authority.

“Business executives who want to be advocates of diversity & inclusion have to go beyond simply reviewing policies or naming chief diversity officers, who have a history of high turnover often due to a lack of support for the initiatives they create,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. 

Recent news stories bring the necessity to light: Allegations of racism and workplace intimidation have led to an internal investigation of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, despite the celebrity often promoting a “be kind” attitude on camera. In late July, Nike named a new Chief Diversity Officer, along with issuing a promise to improve diversity and speak out on social issues, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Black Lives Matter Movement against police brutality and racially motivated violence continues to grow, including organized protests across the U.S., while the #MeToo movement continues to uncover sexual harassment and violence.

“Companies have to make it clear to their employees, their customers and clients, and their communities that they will not tolerate injustice for any group,” said Challenger. “Being allies to groups that have been marginalized and promoting equality in their workplaces will help companies attract the most talented, diverse workforce. If companies want to be truly innovative, diversity is essential. Plus, their brand will be associated with trying to right the wrongs of the past.”

Many companies have a lot of work to do in this area. According to Boston Consulting Group, the Fortune 500 has 24 female CEOs, three Black CEOs, and three gay CEOs. According to executive staffing firm Crist Kolder Associates, the average age of CEOs in the Fortune 500 in 2019 was 58.

If employers need more motivation than increasing employee engagement and improving social leadership, they can look to financial benefits. Forbes reported in 2019 on a study by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company of more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries, which concluded that more diversity results in greater profitability: For gender diversity, companies in the top quartile are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability, and for ethnic diversity, companies in the top quartile are 33% more likely to be more profitable.

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