This article is the first in WorkLife’s Bookshelf series, which will feature interviews with authors of recently-written, notable books tackling topics relevant to future of work trends.
The hidebound racial prejudices that still plague America are, in many ways, unchanged from the day Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in August 1963 and proclaimed he had a dream. But there is another battleground where visions of equality can become realities – the U.S. workplace.
That’s the premise of a new book “Inclusion Revolution – The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequality in the Workplace,” written by Daisy Auger-Dominguez. She is the chief people officer at Vice Media Group and has held similar positions at Google and the Disney ABC Television Group.
The earth moved under the feet of corporate officials in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the killing of Breonna Taylor and other episodes of racial violence in 2020. Across the board, business leaders vowed action. But for Auger-Dominguez — quick fixes won’t work, there needs to be constant agitation. To her, ripping out racism at the root is not only good for society but will bolster the corporate bottom line.
WorkLife spoke to her to find out more, ahead of the book’s publication in March.
Why is it essential to have a diverse group of decision-makers across any organization?
The business case for diversity in the workplace is overwhelming: Companies with diverse boards of directors, C-suite levels, and employee bases consistently outperform those without. Also, when we improve belonging and inclusion at work, success follows. Belonging improves [talent] retention. Workplace belonging can lead to a 56% reduction in [staff] turnover risk. That’s because people who feel they belong perform better, become more willing to challenge themselves, and are more confident and resilient. Workplaces with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to innovate and weather market change.
Harvard Business Review attempted to quantify this impact, stating that increased job performance, reduced turnover, and fewer sick days for a 10,000-person company would result in annual savings of more than $52 million. Yet, workforce statistics show a persistent lack of progress for non-white workers in the corporate workforce, from entry-level to executive.
There is no finish line to the learning or the work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space. How are companies benefiting from those efforts?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a continuum, an ongoing journey of unlearning the deeply rooted dogmas that guide the way individuals, organizations, and systems operate. You have to be in it for the long haul. Transforming systems takes time, resources, and patience. I believe we can, in our own spaces, be active agitators and revolutionaries.
A homogenous work environment can create stagnancy and stifle creativity in teams. Employees from different backgrounds bring different ways of thinking and experiences to their work, often sparking creative thought or innovative solutions, as well as developing original ideas for products and services. A diverse workforce, when properly managed, has been shown to further enhance market competitiveness, brand reputation and productivity.
In your book you mentioned efforts like diversity training fall short. Why and how can the problem be solved?
Everyone in corporate America has gone through some type of diversity training. The truth is, it’s not working. There is scant research-based evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of generic training and cookie-cutter diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. Instead, you need to tailor solutions to the individual needs of the people in your workplace.
How can corporate America reflect, visualize, act, and persist successfully with efforts to improve DEI?
Intractable as it may seem, the problem of racism and inequity in the workplace is a problem that can be solved with the right information, incentives,
investment, and courage. Before tackling this work, managers, and anyone willing to challenge persistent inequities in their workplaces, should reflect on what they and others are experiencing and get clear on what they’re trying to achieve, visualize what is possible for themselves and their organization, and be willing to make tough calls, act on what they hear and learn, which often means embracing real moments of courage, and persist when obstacles appear, because they will.
Once obstacles are successfully confronted, how does the future unfold?
Here’s what I envision: radically inclusive and equity-minded workplaces where leaders and team members are empathetically anti-racist; where creativity and innovation come from everywhere; where all aspects of our identities are represented equitably at all levels across organizations and institutions; where safe, fair, and dignified work is the norm; where wellness is built into organizational design; and where we are willing to test, iterate, and pivot so that everyone can be successful. I believe we can strengthen our muscles together. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dismantle racial inequities in the workplace.
The Inclusion Revolution is published by Seal Press.