Advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in organizations

The Source
By: undefined, Tue Mar 15 2022

Springer Nature supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the researchers and practitioners in policy and business tirelessly working towards them. For International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination we spoke to Kay Formanek, CEO & founder of ‘Diversity & Performance’ and author of Beyond D&I - Leading Diversity with Purpose and Inclusiveness (Palgrave Macmillan).

Please tell us about the nature of your work.

For the last 30 years I have worked to advance equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) through my advisory work and also in my role of leadership coach. During my 25 years in Accenture, as Partner and Managing Director, I was the lead of our D&I work in The Netherlands and also sponsoring partner for our global talent potential program. I retired from Accenture with the objective of committing the next chapter of my career to supporting leaders of diversity within their organization. I felt compelled to create a strategic narrative for diversity that is underpinned by science and a shared vocabulary for diversity, equity and inclusion. I founded the organization – now global – called Diversity and Performance that works with more than 50 clients around the world on their diversity journey for delivering results. I am passionate about the diversity work in not-for-profit organizations such as global NGO’s. This is the work that I am progressing with these committed organizations and now captured on the book “Beyond D&I: Leading Diversity with Inclusiveness and Purpose”.

Does your work intend to directly address ways in which we can further reduce inequality and with it racism? If so, in which way? 

A large part of my work is making leaders and organizations aware of bias, why it occurs, how to mitigate it and create equity within the organization. In addition, there are many policies and practices that an organization can put in place to stamp out racism on the work floor. This is not only about having a zero tolerance policy for discrimination, racism and sexism on the work floor, but the safe environment to report such incidents and the capability to deal with it at source. In response to the killing of George Floyd and the BLM movement around the world, most organizations are taking action to educate their members on the history of slavery and colonialism and how this has translated to the systemic and personal bias that occurs daily. These organizations have created a diversity development journey where their members explore what it means to be inclusive, to understand the history of racism and to develop the skills to create a more inclusive environment through supporting dialogue and sharing.

What are the short and long-term goals of your work?

My long term goal is to move diversity from being a check-box, window-dressing, side issue, to being a strategic pillar in the board room and leadership team. Research has been clear: diversity will be fundamental to the very survival of each organization. Given our complex environment, that becomes more complex and diverse each day, it will be those organizations that have diversity of perspectives and specialization and backgrounds that will be better placed to navigate this change. I often say that diversity is not easy, but diversity is essential to the longevity of organizations. The short term goals are connected to the long term goals: I wish to bring diversity to the board room by having the diversity discussions in the board room (goal is 100 more organizations in the next year); I wish to equip leaders with the awareness, the skills and the methodology to liberate the benefits of diversity through the certification program and the handbook for diversity, Beyond D&I (2000 certifications in the next 2 years); I wish to support inclusive leadership through coaching the top leaders to be inclusive leaders (50 new leaders coached in the next 2 years); and I wish to support bias and racism being stamped out by educating organizations how history and daily practices support the institution of racism (workshops implemented across 100 of the Fortune 500).

How important do you think it is for organizations to make a societal impact?

This is an extract from Chapter 1, that answers the question nicely.

In this new era of stakeholder value, maximizing shareholder profit is no longer considered a corporation’s primary duty. Instead, creating value for all stakeholders is the new organizational mandate. Stakeholders—customers, consumers, employees, citizens— expect institutions to step up and do their part to address the daunting global social and environmental challenges we face, not least growing inequity. And as #MeToo and #BLM show, they are making their voices heard loud and clear.

This rallying cry for change is loudest among Generation Z (Gen Z), who will soon eclipse Millennials as the most populous generation on earth—more than one-third of the world’s population. Gen Zers are the most connected and ethnically and racially diverse generation and they are calling for a more equitable and sustainable world. This matters to the strategic leader, because it is Gen Z who will soon make up the majority of voters, citizens, consumers and the future global talent pool.

The priorities embraced by Gen Z are also being advanced on the global stage through the United Nations 2030 Agenda. This ambitious global roadmap sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a cross-cutting commitment to “leave no one behind” and target support towards vulnerable populations first. Equity is a central theme throughout Agenda 2030, and it includes a standalone goal to achieve ‘Reduced Inequalities’ both within and between countries. In spite of pockets of ‘progress,’ SDG10 is considered to be one of the goals most unlikely to be met and inequalities are actually growing in most countries, not shrinking.

Tackling complex challenges like inequality cannot be done by any single institution and all organizations have a role to play in driving progress on the SDGs. To ensure they are aligned with stakeholder expectations, leaders can use the blueprint of the 2030 Agenda as a roadmap not only for how they run their organizations, but how they create value for society going forward.

What progress would you like to see next towards the advancement of reducing inequality and eradicating racism, worldwide and locally?

I subscribe and support the goals that have been established for “Reduced Inequality”, #10 of the Sustainable Development Goals. From my own work, goals 10.2 and 10.3 are aligned to my work.

Goal 10.2: “by 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status”.

And Goal: 10.3 “Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard”.

I would have liked to see the SDG’s, targets and global indicators to have been more explicit about the eradication of systemic racism and racial and ethnic discrimination. Clearly racism constitutes a global barrier to human development and it becomes critical to be able to track whether progress is being made in reducing the scourge of racism or not. 

How can progress on reducing inequalities translate to progress in practice?

I have created a list of 7 initiatives that each and every organizations should put in place to shut out racism in the workplace and ensure the mitigation of unconscious racial bias:

  • Communicate explicitly the commitment of the organization to promote racial diversity and equality.
  • Institute zero tolerance policy for racism in the organization and design protocols for supporting the safe environment to report transgressions and remediate the transgressions.
  • Have all leaders and employees participate in workshops that support the dialogue and learning around the history of racism, presence of systemic racism, and key obstacles.
  • Set goals for racial diversity, monitor turnover and reasons for leaving, and where measure inclusion. 
  • Establish direct links with Employee Resource Groups so that there is direct input on the portfolio of interventions to ensure that the commitment to racial diversity becomes a reality.
  • Identify the talent blind spots/stereotypes/unconscious bias that is restricting participation and advancement and dismantle by “de-biasing” the talent processes.
  • Walk-the-talk and celebrate successes.

Discover Springer Nature's SDG10 Hub about Reduced Inequalities.

About Kay Formanek
Kay Formanek

Kay Formanek is a global speaker on Diversity and Inclusion, visiting lecturer at leading business schools and Founder of Diversity and Performance BV, which is committed to unleashing the power of Diversity Performance within profit and not-for-profit organizations. Within this role, Kay offers advisory and research services, including coaching for inclusive and strategic diversity leaders. Her proven approach to leading diversity strategically draws on extensive research and advisory work with over 50 organizations. She is the author of Beyond D&I: Leading Diversity with Purpose and Inclusiveness.