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Newsletter Week 16

May 15, 2019

This week:

  • The headlines read, “Chief Diversity Officers are overworked and under-paid.” But when we talked to the author of Russell Reynolds’ recent report on CDOs, we learned a lot more…

  • A new emperor’s ascension becomes a flash point for Japanese attitudes about gender. Will economic and demographic pressures finally diversify Japan’s labor force?

  • Among adolescents, males and people from higher-income homes are more likely to say they know what they are talking about when they don’t. The ability to “bluff” can lead to more opportunity later in life. But it could penalize females, lower-income people, and others who experience harsher consequences when they make mistakes.

  • A series of web comics illustrating life with ADHD goes viral.


Today in D&I In Practice

Chief Diversity Officers Are Making Hard Choices that Compromise Results. What Should Companies Do? (D&I Original/Subscribers Only)

Several weeks ago, I wrote about Russell Reynolds' thought-provoking report A Leader's Guide: Finding and Keeping Your Next Chief Diversity Officer. The report raised a lot of questions in my mind, so I reached out to report author Tina Shah Paikeday for more. 

Paikeday is head of Russell Reynolds’ global D&I practice, so she has seen the struggles of CDOs up close and personal. She also counsels CEOs and other senior leaders on how to make sure their diversity programs are driving results. In Paikeday’s words:

“...we found that even though the CDO role is so important, it's being under-resourced. People are making hard choices—whether to invest in data analytics, or communications, or leadership and development strategy, or D&I programs. And of course, you need all of these. When too many hard choices have to be made, impact doesn’t happen.”

This under-investment is one of the reasons that CDO tenure tends to be so short, according to Paikeday. Companies want results, but the investment doesn’t match the magnitude of the results they expect. A meaningful change in representation percentages, at a company with a substantial employee base, can take a long time under the best of circumstances.

Paikeday and I talk about diversity’s tendency to drift lower in the organization structure over time, which can also affect results by isolating D&I from executive discussions. We also discuss what metrics are right at what stage of a D&I initiative, how standard engagement surveys don’t effectively measure inclusion, and how a CDO is like a CPG brand manager. Check it out here.


More in News and Research

  1. Time to Make Diversity and Inclusion a Reality (Japan Times)

The installation of the new emperor of Japan—and the exclusion of his wife, Empress Masako, from a key ceremony—has reignited the Japanese conversation about gender and broader questions of diversity. This op-ed discusses how. As a rapidly aging society short on workers, Japan has long encouraged the participation of women in the labor force. But deeply ingrained ideas about gender roles have limited women’s ability and desire to work outside the home. Increasingly, though, demographic and economic pressures are requiring Japan to embrace not only working women but also workers from overseas. What will this mean for D&I initiatives in Japan, as the work force tries to integrate this social change?


2. Rich Guys are More Likely to Have No Idea What They’re Talking About, Study Suggests (Washington Post)

Upper-class males are more likely to pretend to know that they are talking about even if they don’t. According to this survey of 15-year olds across nine mainly English-speaking countries, males were more likely than females to say they understood specific math concepts. Even if the math concepts were bogus ones that the researchers made up. 

Now, a bit of bluffing can work in a person’s favor. As the authors point out, “the study gives reason to believe there’s a useful life skill to be had here, such as the ability to bluff your way to success. ‘Being able to bulls--- convincingly may be useful in certain situations (e.g. job interviews, negotiations, grant applications)’”

But the difference in, er, bluffing behavior is possible because people with more social status (males, people with more wealth) face fewer penalties if they are caught out. So bluffing can create advantage for a person, but a person who already has an advantage is also safer bluffing, particularly in a society that penalizes women and racial/ethnic minorities more harshly for failure.

The study focuses on teenagers, so it’s not clear how much this effect persists into adulthood. But it does say something interesting about what we value in males (acting like you know the answer, even if you don’t) and what we instill in females (don’t stick your neck out unless you’re 100% sure you know the answer).


3. ADHD: “The Web Comics That Show What My Life is Like” (BBC)

Data visualization expert Dani Donovan started sketching vignettes about her life with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Then they went viral. Check out the comics: they are both charming and educational. H/t to Caroline Simard of the VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford for this one!


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. 

Namibian Women Say #MeToo in New Campaign Against Sexual Violence (Sight Magazine)

I Wrote the Book on User-Friendly Design. What I See Today Horrifies Me. (Fast Company)

The Joy of Absence (The Economist)


Upcoming Events

Event listings are provided as a courtesy. D&I In Practice is not affiliated with any of these events, although I will be interviewing my dear friend Ana McCullough, CEO and co-founder of Questbridge, onstage at OPEN. Come join us!

Ascend 2019 Summit (May 10, New York, $385)

Getting Close, but Not Too Close: Mentoring in the #MeToo Era, by Stacy Blake-Beard and Mary Shapiro (May 16, 12:30-2 pm Eastern time, Boston)

Making Connections in the Tech Field, by Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of ThePLUG and Al Lundy, Director of Tech Talent Acquisition at Capital One. (May 31, free webinar, 1 pm Eastern time in US and Canada)

Greenhouse OPEN (June 12-13, New York, $995)

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D&I In Practice wants your feedback so we can deliver the content you need to move the needle forward on diversity and inclusion. Please send comments, questions and ideas for stories you’d love to see to editor@diinpractice.com.