Here’s something business can learn from government

"Companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile," the study said, and culturally and ethnically diverse companies "in the top quartile outperformed those in the fourth by 36 percent in terms of profitability in 2019."

In board searches, Crist says he’s seen "this pendulum swing many years ago where the requests to us started moving away from CEOs and CFOs and into women and minorities." Today, his firm has a dozen open projects with the same request: "They basically say, don’t show us any white guys." The shift toward board diversity is much quicker in consumer-facing industries, less so in nonretail spaces like manufacturing, he says.

What does government do differently? For one, it puts a commitment to diversity front and center. Among Lightfoot’s top values: equity, diversity and inclusion, chief of staff Maurice Classen says. "Part of that comes from her own personal background of being left out of conversations and fighting her way into boardrooms."

Pritzker says he had no quota in mind but had no problem finding qualified diverse candidates to fill department head and senior staff positions. His immediate orbit includes a Black female lieutenant governor, Juliana Stratton, female general counsel and chief of staff, and four deputy governors (three of color, one female). Pritzker says unconscious bias—including things like favoring candidates who share an alma mater—is one of the biggest problems blinding corporate leaders. "I had to learn those things during the course of my lifetime and I’ve had to teach it to other people. We’re not going to see change unless there’s intentionality."

Having a diverse staff not only brings in a range of voices to help inform decision-making, but broadens networks of potential applicants to fill other roles.

It’s easier to attract talent with a diverse workforce, an African American board president and chief of staff, says Preckwinkle’s right-hand woman, Lanetta Haynes Turner. The county specifically targets ethnic- and gender-affiliated groups for job applicants and relies on its diverse staffers to share jobs with their own networks. "All of those things take a little more time, but it shapes your recruitment pool of ideal candidates you have coming in."


Recruiting practices play a big role in shaping the composition of a workforce. Companies often screen job applicants through rigid hiring criteria requiring extensive qualifications and specific previous experience, which can knock capable minority candidates out of the running before the first interview.

"Deconstruct your notion of what it means to be qualified and ready to go," says Candace Moore, Lightfoot’s chief equity officer. "I challenge people to go back to basics: What do you need to do this job well? What is your organization able to teach someone, versus raw talent and experiences you can couple with training, to produce the person to do whatever job you need to do? So often we rely on ready-to-go, which is often a person that walked the same path. It tends to be very nondiverse, racialized paths."

Take opportunities to de-bias interview strategies, too, Moore says: Use blind résumés and rubrics to evaluate candidates, have multiple people in different positions to evaluate, and learn how your organization can better support those new additions, especially when they’re entering overwhelmingly white workplaces.

For board picks, that might mean choosing younger candidates who aren’t yet CEOs or CFOs. Christie Hefner, the former Playboy CEO who has been an outspoken advocate for corporate gender inclusion, encourages boards to require search firms to come up with all-diverse slates and consider term-limiting seats to make more room. "If you don’t turn over seats, even if you fill all of them with women and people of color, it’ll be 2050 and we’ll barely have moved the needle."


via Crain’s Chicago Business

July 10, 2020 at 04:19PM

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