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Newsletter Week 28

August 21, 2019

CEOs affirm their responsibilities to customers, employees, suppliers and communities as well as shareholders. Diversity and inclusion is officially part of the 300-word statement, which would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. Activism made it happen. In research, multinational companies have different strategies for promoting LGBTQ rights. Which one does your company use? Finally, stay up-to-date on the upcoming Jewish holiday season, and check out an awesome resource on supporting diversity of religion while you’re at it.

From Our Archives

I’m excited about our new lineup for the fall! You’ll be seeing more articles by leading academics sharing how to put their research findings into practice. We also have a number of interviews coming up with D&I practitioners around the globe, talking frankly about how they handle real-life D&I questions. 

As we finalize the fall calendar, I’m sharing one of my favorite pieces from the archives, which connects to new research about how anticipating harsher consequences for failure can lead women to dial back their ambition.

Are Women Risk-Averse? Yes. And Maybe They Should Be.

I wrote this piece earlier in the summer, but it’s worth revisiting in light of new research by Susan Fiske and Jon Overton of Kent State University. These scholars find that, when women anticipate that failure in a leadership position will be costly to them because of gender discrimination, they become less ambitious. One key finding: the ways organizations respond to failure matters.

This Week in News and Research

1. America’s CEOs Seek a New Purpose for the Corporation (Fortune)

This week, the powerful Business Roundtable unveiled their new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. Shareholders are mentioned last on a long list of stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers and community members.

Diversity and inclusion shows up in the employee section, which ends with the sentence: “We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.” If so inclined, you could also read D&I into statements about working with small suppliers, and a commitment to “respect the people in our communities.”

A somewhat bemused Wall Street Journal article makes clear how unprecedented this stance is. Maximization of shareholder value has been considered a company’s core (indeed, only) responsibility since the 1970s. In some ways, this is a giant step forward for companies--to formally acknowledge their responsibilities to caring about something other than shareholder profit. 

It also feels a bit like CEOs finding a parade and planting themselves at the front. From employee activism to outright political confrontation, late capitalism is playing defense. Whatever these CEOs’ personal convictions, the market has sent them a clear signal: you have to at least say that you care. 

What does this all mean for diversity and inclusion? One possible outcome: this statement might provide air cover for companies who want to be more progressive, but have felt held back. It might also free up more resources for D&I programming, as companies recognize how important a real, visible commitment to D&I is to their brands--employer and otherwise.

Net-net: this announcement is a huge and positive step. It’s not the end goal—not by a long shot. Words, after all, are cheap. But, to the extent words shape ideas and actions, they are also powerful. Actually writing the words “diversity and inclusion” into a statement of corporate purpose would have been literally unthinkable even ten years ago. It happened because of activism by people like you. Now it’s up to us to push companies to make those words mean something.

2. How Multi-Nationals Can Help Advance LGBTQ Inclusion Around the World (Harvard Business Review)

The authors identify three models companies tend to use when engaging with LBGTQ rights:

  • “When in Rome,” (defer to local standards of LGBTQ inclusion)

  • “Embassy,” (creating an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace but not seeking to influence local laws or customs)

  • “Advocate,” (engaging with the local environment to change attitudes and laws.)

“When in Rome” may sound unappealing, but it sometimes the only approach possible, when being out is unsafe in a country or region. The authors discuss each approach and also offer advice from the companies studied about how to increase your level of corporate LGBTQ commitment no matter where they are on the continuum.

3. Jewish Fall Holidays (The Tanenbaum Center)

The fall brings a series of important Jewish holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah at the end of September. The Tanenbaum Center—a comprehensive resource for all things religious at work—has put together a free guide to these important fall dates. While you are there, check out all the Center’s resources around supporting religious diversity at work.

We’re Also Reading...

These articles aren’t necessarily directly connected to the workplace, but have interesting insights about diversity and inclusion in society at large.

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