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Newsletter Week 9

March 26, 2019

This week:

  • A new academic centre in Ireland bridges academic theory and practice around D&I.

  • Asking employees to pay business expenses in advance and then be reimbursed can undermine your D&I efforts. We talk about how, and what you can do to make handling necessary business expenses more equitable.

  • Goldman Sachs formalizes diversity targets for entry-level employees by 2021. It’s a sign the times really are a’changing...and a tribute to activists and pay equity laws.

  • WarnerMedia announced diversity initiatives and a new CDO role, but it’s hard to keep it from looking like damage control. Another reason to get out in front with your D&I strategy—it might win you a little grace if a scandal hits.

  • Advocating for social change in the workplace? New research suggests you might do better to tie your proposal to the company’s values and mission, rather than the business case.

Today in D&I In Practice

Diversity Doers: A New Centre for Diversity in Ireland Aims for Big Change (D&I Original/Subscribers Only)

Dublin City University’s new Centre for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion is bridging the gap between theory and practice. Centre Director Sandra Healy talks about projects underway, including a collaboration with 50 companies to explore “hidden diversity,” such neurodiversity, as well as the centre’s plans for the future.

Is Your Reimbursement Policy Inclusive or Exclusive? (D&I Original/Subscribers Only)

Companies routinely ask employees to pay up front for many expenses, and submit for reimbursement later. But this policy can disadvantage many employees, including those from lower-income backgrounds, people with disabilities or chronic medical conditions, and those in single-income households. We hear from employees who have given up growth opportunities because of cash flow issues caused by company expense policies, and suggest how to handle company expenses more equitably.

More in News and Research

1.  Goldman Sachs Announces Target of 50% Women in Analyst Class (Washington Post)

This recent announcement by Goldman Sachs was interesting for several reasons. First, Goldman set specific, public targets for representation. For their incoming analyst class (which is 70% of the bank’s annual hiring), Goldman is targeting 50% women globally by 2021. In the Americas, they are also targeting 11% black and 14% Latinx recruits. 

In the quota-phobic American business culture, this is unusual. It’s an indication of exactly how much pressure financial institutions are feeling from a variety of stakeholders, including employees and activist investors (see our article several weeks ago for more on this trend).

It’s also a tribute to how UK pay equity laws are changing the conversation. In the US, pay equity disclosures are voluntary (at least until the Obama-era EEOC pay disclosure rules make it out of legal limbo). But the UK started mandatory annual reporting for companies with 250 employees and up starting in 2018. What’s more, the UK rules require companies disclose the average and median earnings gap between men and women. This calculation method generally results in much more dramatic gaps, because it exposes the reality that women--for a variety of reasons--tend to be in lower-paying jobs and have less seniority than men. This is why men earned 55 percent more than women at Goldman in 2017--men are over-represented in the most senior roles. 

For more:

  • How do UK firms stack up for pay equity? Not very well, according to the official UK government disclosure site. It’s fun--if frustrating--to browse around and see how various companies perform.

  • Multi-national law firm Orrick offers an excellent blog on pay equity, with a perspective on pay equity laws in multiple countries, states and territories.

2. WarnerMedia Scrambles to Hire a Chief Diversity Officer, But How Serious Are They? (Los Angeles Times)

You really don’t want this to be you. 

A few days ago, John Stankey, head of WarnerMedia, sent an internal memo about diversity at the company, outlining a number of steps the company is taking to improve diversity and inclusion. The memo comes in the wake of the resignation of former studio head Kevin Tsujihara over a relationship with an actress, but Warner has also drawn criticism over its heavily-male executive team. 

Stankey got some things right in the employee memo (see the full text here). He frankly discussed that he was making changes partly in response to employee concerns. He described several initiatives that seem to have substance and be based in research, such as a new talent management process. He created a new senior role to focus on D&I. And that person will report directly to him, signalling the importance of the issue as well as providing direct access to the CEO’s ear. 

On the downside, Warner was already behind peers such as Disney in creating a senior D&I role. By waiting for a scandal to make D&I a priority, the company has raised skepticism levels with employees and potentially damaged its’ employer brand. It’s a great example of how ongoing, up-front communication about D&I strategy--while tricky--is so important. Maybe the new talent management process Stankey promotes in the memo was underway long before the scandal broke. But now it looks like damage control, and it will be hard to rebuild credibility for the initiative.

Also, will a CDO hired hastily in response to a crisis be set up for long-term success? As Russell Reynolds’ report on CDOs points out (and we reported a few weeks ago,) most CDOs are already over-stretched, under-resourced and lack access to key data they need to drive change.

Reporting to the CEO is a positive for sure. But Stankey will need to put real authority and budget behind the new CDO’s office if the company is going to see real change anytime soon.

3. Bet on Mission, Not Money (Harvard Business Review)

As people who care about D&I, we want to make change, which usually involves convincing senior corporate stakeholders to buy in. The trend in the last few years has been to focus on the business rationale--to make the business case. New academic research suggests that tying change to a company’s values and mission might be a better strategy.

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. 

First All-Women Spacewalk Cancelled Over Lack of Medium-Sized Spacesuits (Quartz)

View From India: Wheelchair-Accessible Maps for the Differently Abled (E&T Magazine)

The Danger of Conflating Sexual Abuse with Abuse of Power (National Catholic Register)

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