Inclusion is not just a line item on your corporate agenda
As a gay woman, I am acutely (and often painfully) aware of all forms of biases (small and large) that exist in our culture – misogyny, homophobia, racism, physical discrimination, and sexual harassment – all of which have been commonplace in our homes and places of work for far too long. The recent surge of activism through social media has provided new hope for change. Marginalized communities now have a global platform for sharing the experiences of injustice and discrimination that negatively impact our society (#blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #equalpay, #gayrights).
But – have we really moved the needle?
Many organizations have capitalized on these highly visible social movements and corporate callouts by promoting their own flavor of [insert strategic diversity initiative here]. Yet, when you look to the statistics, we see very little impact. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that roughly 85% of corporate executives and board members are white men. And while the number of women executives may slowly be rising, that number doesn’t reflect our broad female community. Recent data released by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that women of color represent only 10.5% of employees in S&P 500 companies, and only 4.7% of them hold management level positions or higher. On top of that, there's still the issue of wage gaps, with black women only making around 63 cents for every dollar a white man is paid.
So, this all begs the question: Are these "strategic initiatives” truly helping companies become more equitable and inclusive, or are they simply pacifying those disenfranchised groups, touting only the most basic reformation, in return for publicity and a pat on the back?
Why does this matter?
As an employee, I bore witness to various company cultures that had a “check the box” approach to inclusion, while in practice they remained inactive, at best, and at worst, deceitful. Nowadays, it’s all too familiar to see businesses boldly claim female executive leadership and cultures of empathy, when behind the scenes these companies are run wholly by men who cultivate an atmosphere of fear to drive performance. Additionally, most employees of these companies are from similar privileged backgrounds, which creates a reinforcing loop that often means ideas supporting the status quo are rarely met with resistance. This has an effect of discouraging any out-of-the-box thinking that challenges the work being delivered.
“We won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
When companies limit themselves to singular groups or subgroups of people—whether skill-based, race-based, education-based, or gender-based—the research shows there is a direct negative correlation and impact on growth, opportunity, satisfaction, and innovation. In fact, companies that strive to diversify their workforce yield higher quality work and better financial results. A 2015 McKinsey report done on 366 public companies found that those with more racial and ethnic diversity in their management were 35% more financially successful. More important than the financial gain that comes with having employees with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, companies with diverse workforces are setting an example for future generations. At Knack, we want employees—regardless of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or age—to have an opportunity to pursue their passions. And that can only happen if they can see themselves represented and included.
We must start somewhere
When it came to building Knack, we wanted to start from a place of deep authenticity and intention. We knew that if we didn't challenge everything, the progress would be too incremental to make real and lasting differences to the communities that we are part of and have deep empathy for.
In our experience, radical change starts at the top, through an intentional effort to break the mold and build something completely different. To incite this change, we are charting a course for a new way of working, one in which a flexible culture and inclusive workforce allow our boardrooms to more accurately represent the communities in which we live. Knack will not be just another company looking to adopt diversity and inclusion practices. Rather, we aim to set a new bar and demonstrate to others how to implement meaningful and impactful cultural change within their organizations.
We know we can’t even begin to solve everything ourselves. There’s still a long road ahead. But, for us, fostering safe, inclusive, and diverse spaces for people to work and collaborate is core to who we are. Let me be clear: The intention here is not to pat ourselves on the back for our inclusive mission and vision. This is our manifesto and commitment to you—our global community of changemakers. We know that the current system is broken, and we have all remained complacent for far too long. Let’s change that, together.
Knack Collective is devoted to paving the way to the change that so desperately needs to happen, and we’re making an immediate commitment to work with and for organizations that share our values – organizations that challenge the current system and strive to better our community, working toward a larger, global impact. By 2050, there won’t be a racial or ethnic majority in our country. It’s time our companies and leadership start reflecting the mosaic of who we are. Doing so will benefit ourselves and the generations that will follow our lead.