The world of work in America today seems to look to the human resources professionals for all the answers to diversity issues. This expectation is not only a mistake but it is grossly unfair. We know where the leadership belongs. We also know that in far too many instances the leadership passes the buck to Human Resources.
Many believe that diversity is a business imperative and should not be housed in the Human Resources Department. All agree that diversity is more than a narrow compliance program. Top diversity leaders in America fight for a higher place on the chain of command. Most want to report directly to the CEO; others want to be positioned so they have easy access to the top decision and policy makers in the company. The level at which the Director of Diversity reports sends a very clear message to other companies, prospective candidates, and the community.
Deborah Dagit, Executive Director of Diversity and Work Environment at Merck & Co., believes that the top diversity officer should reside in Human Resources. “I really feel strongly about that. Otherwise, HR can be the best darn gatekeeper (against) diversity. They have all it takes to be a barrier. If HR doesn’t have a buy-in, you are always going to be up against that.”
Today’s Director of Diversity is a business professional who understands corporate leadership and knows what it takes to get things done in the business setting. The Director of Diversity presents diversity as a business imperative, critical to company growth; gains the trust and confidence of the employees; and is a resource to everyone in the company. The role of the Director of Diversity is arduous, visible, and demands many skills and competencies including:
– Business acumen and bottom line orientation
– A commitment to fair treatment and tolerance
– An understanding of cultural differences and an appreciation for emerging markets
– Marketing, sales, team and consensus building skills
– Excellent listening and advocacy skills
– Competency in problem-solving, and conflict management
– Focus, persistence, creativity, and the willingness to take risks
– Awareness of what is going on in the company.
Is the Director of Diversity position a dead end job for a person of color? Sort of like taking a canoe over Niagara Falls? It certainly is, if it is at a company that is not serious about diversity or that.
Over the years I’ve discussed this with people of color who have been tapped by senior management to take job by companies that do not view diversity as a culture change. I have a lot of respect and empathy for motivated people who take on this role at a company that is not serious. They are like voices crying in the wilderness and all they hear is the echo of their own voices.
But, at companies where the senior leadership recognizes the value of diversity, the Director of Diversity position can be an excellent career move, a stepping-stone for a fast tracked executive. A premier financial services corporation selected their top sales executive to take over a faltering diversity program. Why? They wanted a proven, talented doer to make diversity happen. Did it hurt his career? Just the opposite. I suggest that they get everything on the table before they commit to taking the job by asking some pertinent questions: “Why are they selecting you? What is their vision for managing diversity? What are the accountabilities?” Here are some other questions that should be answered:
– Is the company committed to cultural change?
– Is the position viewed as a key role? How strong is the person to whom the position reports?
– Where and what is the commitment? What is the budget; is it realistic? Get details and accountabilities.
– What kind of support will you have? Who are your backers; are they reliable and committed?
– How will you be measured? What are the strategic goals and objectives?
– What happens when there are problems, resistance, and objections? Who will run interference with senior managers who don’t get it?
– What are the risks? Will you make a difference? Will you be effective? Is it too risky, or a win-win situation?
Is the top diversity job a dead end job? Read these excerpts from a job description and then answer that question for yourself:
The Vice President, Global Diversity will report directly to the President of the corporation. The President’s other direct reports are the international and domestic divisional and operating unit presidents. The organization is a $9 billion global company with over 55,000 employees and operations in 50 countries.
The Vice President, Global Diversity is a highly matrixed role that will provide worldwide leadership to diversity initiatives. This individual will be the chief architect in designing, developing, and implementing a comprehensive global diversity and inclusive workforce strategy to insure being the employer of choice for the best and brightest talent and achieving its business goals. The company will continue to dedicate significant resources to accomplish its diversity goals, and the VP, Global Diversity is responsible for guiding and coordinating these efforts throughout the company.
The VP Global Diversity will build strong working relationships with division presidents and key senior managers and staff members. The VP Global Diversity will monitor the company’s performance management, compensation, incentives, and promotional processes to ensure that they are equitable and consistent with the company’s diversity strategy.
The Vice President, Global Diversity will partner with selected company executives to secure contributions to minority and women’s organizations that are aligned to the company’s diversity objectives. This individual will work and consult very closely with Corporate Communications, Worldwide Marketing, Global Human Resources, and Public Affairs. This individual will promote and supervise effective utilization and growth of minority and women-owned businesses that are suppliers to the company.
The selected Vice President, Global Diversity will be evaluated and measured by his/her constituencies on:
– How quickly he/she understands the business
– Management expertise
– The ability to contribute to business results
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How mature is your hiring process? Answer these 5 questions and find out.
– Knowledge of best practices
– Ability to communicate vision and to function as a change agent
– Team orientation
– Influencing and collaborating skills
– Success in building and maintaining business partnerships and alliances
– Demonstrated successes in consistently delivering results
– Leadership and team building skills
– Willingness to confront issues, solve problems, and meet challenges
Wow! This is a job for a courageous leader not a faint hearted follower. Much to the dismay of corporate America, diversity is real and is here to stay. Let’s finish with a quote from If the World Were a Village, by Meadows; and “A Summary of the World,” by Provasnik.
If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of one hundred people, would you recognize it? Here’s the makeup:
– 52 villagers would be female; 48 would be male
– 33 would be children
– 6 would be over the age of 65
– 58 would be Asian
– 70 would be persons of color
– 30 would be Christian
– 6 would own half the village’s wealth; all 6 would be US citizens
– 9 would speak English
– 50 would suffer from malnutrition
– 80 would live in sub-standard housing
– 66 would not have access to clean, safe drinking water
– 10 would be lesbian, gay, or bisexual
– 1 would have a college education