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Filling in the Corporate Diversity Gap

"To be successful, you have to be inclusive"

by Janelle Harris Dixon
Campus Gate with Flowers

Keeping companies and organizations accountable for building representative work environments has been an ongoing challenge since the signing of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act made discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin illegal in any employment-related process.

The past year of elevated racial accountability has seen an explosion of advocacy, including among Howard University alumni who are actively shaping and leading the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) conversation for companies like Bayer, CBS Entertainment, Morgan Stanley and Northrop Grumman.

“Organizations are now understanding what has been talked about for a long time – to be successful, you have to be inclusive in your talent and the perspectives you bring to the table,” explains Darlene Slaughter (B.S. ’82), vice president and chief diversity, inclusion and engagement officer for the March of Dimes. “It has to be more than a conversation or a quote. There has to be real movement, impact and outcomes.”

A 2019 study by Gartner, a Connecticut-based research and advisory firm, revealed that 75 percent of companies that maintain diverse and inclusive decision-making teams will exceed their financial targets. The same study found that gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperform their less inclusive counterparts by 50 percent.

“Organizations are beginning to realize that the talent we employ are in our communities, consume our products and represent our brands. It speaks volumes when the c-suite and boards reflect diversity,” Slaughter says. “It’s no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It attracts talent and adds to the bottom line.”

This story appears in the Spring 2021 issue.

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