D&I: Action and Accountability

A recent CMO Club workshop convened marketing luminaries from across sectors and timezones for an open, trusted conversation about advancing the business priority of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Led by Diversity Consultant Wanita Bardouille, these top marketing leaders shared perspectives, related anecdotes, and highlighted both D&I success and challenges that they’re seeing within their companies. There was consensus among those gathered that in spite of research-based evidence demonstrating the strong business case for diversity progress has been slow and incremental. Exacerbating the challenges: the pandemic has further eroded the measured gains that some groups had been making. 

This rich discussion also yielded best practices and actionable steps that marketing leaders can take to continue driving the D&I agenda forward. These include:  

Courageously ask the bold questions. 

Consistently give voice to the problem and set the tone for organizational and cultural transformation.

  • Every D&I champion encounters obstacles. Stay the course and remain consistent. 
  • The most senior levels of leadership need reference examples of how to authentically and constructively have these conversations. Live those examples.
  • Look for ways to align D&I with the company’s strategy. The greater the alignment the more D&I becomes a driving force in everything from product development to talent acquisition. It also becomes a competitive differentiator for the company in the market. 

Welcome nuance. Challenge assumptions.

The nature of the problem is deeply complex. The end game is not fixing today’s problems, it’s re-architecting the future. 

  • Like a papercut, microaggressions can present as seemingly casual and innocuous. However the injury they inflict can be serious and enduring. Recognize the harm microaggressions cause and find ways to address these via established channels. Training may be needed to help the organization recognize microaggressions. Work to create a culture of accountability. 
  • Open D&I conversations can trigger trauma. Employees may be vulnerable when sharing experiences that bring prior painful experiences to the surface. Think through the resources that may need to be in place to support emotional health as employees engage in authentic conversations about race, gender, and equity in the workplace. 
  • While many companies that have prioritized their D&I journey are making great leaps, the gap is growing for those companies that have not yet embarked on this journey. Conversations about D&I may sometimes seem to be pervasive but the industry-wide tipping point is still on the horizon.  
  • What needs to be addressed, with regards to this  systemic problem, is something many of us recognize, but  don’t have consensus on what to call it. For some organizations it’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and others Inclusion and Diversity (I&D). Some call it Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). And still others are introducing Justice into the mix: JEDI. 

Help grassroots-driven conversations grow and flourish. 

Create the space for employee-driven perspectives to be shared. Amplify their voices and invest in their success. 

  • If D&I is a business priority, identify ways your organization can carve out time and resources to support employees who are taking on this work as “extracurricular,” so that it’s factored into their “day jobs.”
  • Do the organic groups forming within your organization have real power? Help them get the right sponsors to challenge the status quo.
  • The biggest problem companies may be dealing with is silence. Invest in technology (e.g. completely safe, anonymous email) to support people in giving voice to the problem.
  • Know the language of your stakeholders and frame the conversation through data, business consequences, human impact, or in other ways depending on what the audience is most likely to respond to.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Transformative change is a response to this uncomfort. 

View The CMO Club’s Equality Pledge and additional resources here