The recent worldwide protests around the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have served as a catalyst for corporate activism. Companies across every industry have released statements committing themselves to Diversity and Inclusion and pledging to combat racism. However, not all companies can make these statements without attracting scrutiny over their actual records when it comes to workforce and human resource issues. Indeed, several high-profile companies professing a commitment to D&I have been criticized for having un-representative workforces in which Black people in particular have a minimal presence, especially in senior leadership roles. This demand for corporate accountability on D&I is a good thing, but it also reflects that many companies with good intentions have not fully implemented policies designed to maximize Diversity as well as building an environment that encourages people from under-represented groups to feel welcome and able to contribute. This not only serves as an obstacle to employees of color advancing their careers, but also undermines the organizations for which they work by failing to fully utilize Black and minority talent.
At IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), we have long been committed to not only advocating D&I but factoring it into the very fabric of how our organization operates. That’s why I was appointed IMA’s first Director of Diversity and Inclusion in 2018. In this role, I have helped to lead these efforts at making IMA an organization that reflects our diverse membership while also furthering the cause of Diversity in the broader Finance and Accounting profession, including through webinars, research, and other thought leadership to support both IMA members and nonmembers interested in creating a bias-free environment and managing diverse teams. Most recently, building on our own experiences, we released a Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit to serve as both a blueprint for further progress at IMA and to showcase our approach to finance teams at other organizations.
When it comes to D&I, we begin with an acknowledgement: Words are powerful. With that in mind, D&I leaders must commit to everyday self-awareness. That necessarily requires that D&I is exemplified throughout the company, starting with upper-level management. And it requires a culture that rewards a willingness to course correct. Many common issues can arise in response to D&I efforts. These could include a failure to prioritize it or a poorly defined and measured business case. Some team members may start out unable to see D&I as “their problem,” while even those prepared to engage might be uncomfortable speaking about D&I topics. Finally, diversity fatigue could take over in the event expectations and outcomes aren’t met or don’t align with the amount of effort put into D&I. In the toolkit, we outline the following commitments and practices that have brought IMA measurable progress and success in elevating D&I and meeting these challenges head-on:
- Top-Level Engagement: Organizations need to ensure that D&I is advanced by the CEO and senior leaders and aligns with broader organizational strategy.
- Establishing Accountability: Putting a senior leader in charge of D&I initiatives, rather than delegating them to a committee or entry-level employees, builds a structure in which an identifiable leader can be held responsible for success or failure.
- Detailed Tracking Measurements: D&I must be tracked and quantified; in our case, this means maintaining a database of management and D&I statistics and keeping track of programs, events and investments.
- Communications: Organizations must factor D&I efforts into communications with all stakeholders, including employees, investors and/or members, and with the wider public. This includes internal communications, external reports and marketing materials.
- Human Resources, Teams, and Recruitment: The focus should not be just on current employees, but in recruiting diverse candidates for roles and, through succession planning and partnerships, building a diverse future talent pipeline.
This toolkit can be used by management accountants, professionals in human resources, finance, or accounting, or any person who is responsible for or has an interest in D&I within an organization. Though the kit reflects IMA’s own experiences and successes in this field, the principles can be applied to all types of organizations. And, as public concern over Diversity grows, now is the time to take a look a best practices to implement a blueprint for change.