I want to publicly address a recent criticism that came from a business associate and someone I’ve known for almost 30 years. “You’re not a real ‘diversity person.’ You’re a business and marketing executive with expertise in diversity – there’s a difference.”
I suppose that justifies why this person excludes me from “diversity opportunities deemed for real diversity people.”
At first I was offended, but the more I thought about it, I’ve concluded that she is right. My focus on diversity – reaching as far back as the 1990s, has always been through a business lens and has evolved throughout my corporate and entrepreneurial career. My work has been heavily focused on multicultural marketing, diversity strategy through a business lens and community engagement. In my consulting practice, I’ve delved more deeply into social interactions, and truth be told, I am a business and marketing executive with a passion for integrating diversity into organizations. There. I said it. I own it. Let the chips fall where they may.
Here’s what I believe about the discipline of Diversity & Inclusion:
· I believe that for businesses, it’s always about the business. The angles may change, the language may be different – reaching new markets, making sure our people are engaged, addressing equity, creating an inclusive environment, creating a space where our employees can be heard, living organizational values, embracing difference, advocating for gender equality, supporting veterans, LGBTQ and cultivating an inclusive environment. Ultimately, it all must contribute to the achievement of business objectives.
· I believe that people are motivated by enlightened self-interest – answering the question “What’s in it for me?” – is essential for meaningfully engaging leaders and employees. While some may deny it, everyone has a need to be validated and to have their “why” addressed.
· I believe that most CEOs are highly competitive and want their accomplishments and achievements recognized and marketed. Who can blame them? Business people want to strengthen their brands and they want to attract and retain talent for their organizations.
· I believe that white women and black women must work to find common ground. There is a huge “elephant in the room” that requires courage and candor to address. There is so much focus on what white males (not all) are doing wrong and very little focus on the chasm between white women and black women. It’s time to take action on opportunities to build trust in order to advance the collective interest. Imagine how much can be accomplished through a shared agenda.
· I believe that a comprehensive strategic approach to diversity and inclusion is the way to go – and yes, through a business lens with metrics and accountability. I own my passion for the marketing and communications discipline, and I think it is essential to use that business lens to view and to articulate powerful stories that have the ability to capture hearts and minds, increase understanding and influence necessary changes.
· I believe that authenticity is essential for meaningful change and today’s litigious society makes it difficult for people to have real conversations. That said, I believe that innovative courageous leaders can find ways to make that happen.
· I believe that now is the time to take action by owning your truth and getting involved regardless of your frame of reference. The work of diversity and inclusion is a shared responsibility for all of us. It’s time to look in the mirror, confront our biases and take action.
Juliette Mayers is a consultant, author, speaker and CEO of Inspiration Zone LLC, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) specializing in diversity and inclusion strategy, brand management and thought leadership. Follow @juliettemayers and visit www.juliettemayers.com and www.inspirationzoneLLC.com