For centuries, traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups and their allies have been clamoring for greater rights, representation and support. But despite significant progress, particularly in recent decades, it's undeniable that disparities remain: disparities in pay, disparities in opportunities and disparities in treatment. It's easy to look at these lingering disparities and place the blame on a lack of empathy among those in power—to say that the people with the influence to change the system simply don’t have the will to do so or, even worse, like things the way they are.
But we firmly believe that there is a genuine desire within corporate America for greater diversity and inclusion, both for altruistic and more pragmatic reasons. Most people get that diversity and inclusion are the right thing to do. Increasingly, business leaders are coming to understand that diversity and inclusion can have big and positive impacts on a company's bottom line.
And yet, efforts remain flat or even declining. We call that the “stuck state” and two recent high-profile examples demonstrate the pervasive lack of progress.
In the weeks following the 2016 Academy Award nominations which triggered the #OscarsSoWhite movement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promised to push for greater inclusivity. The group committed to doubling the representation of women and people of color among nominees by 2020. And, by the close of 2019, they had met their goal of doubling these numbers.
However, because 2016 numbers were staggeringly low, meeting their goal only bumped representation of women members of the Academy to 32% and people of color to 16%. Compare that with the US population which is 51% female and 39% nonwhite, and even this progress seems to fall short.
This year, only two of the 20 actors and actresses nominated for Academy Awards were people of color. No female director was nominated in the directing category even though women directed four major films last year.
They’re not the only high-profile group struggling to achieve representation.
Anyone who has watched an NFL game can attest to the strong representation of people of color within the organization. Unfortunately, that diversity manifests itself on the field far more than on the sideline and in the coaches' booth. Consider this. Even though 70% of NFL players are Black, currently, there are only two Black head coaches and three coaches of color as of the end of the 2019/2020 season.
Worse, there isn't a very clear path for swift improvement: the top avenue for selecting NFL head coaches is the pool of offensive coaches. However, with 32 teams in the NFL only two offensive coordinators and ten defensive coordinators are Black.
These are just two examples of organizations that, despite good intentions, have been unable to address a relative lack of diversity in their ranks. And, these two organizations have been louder than most in stating their diversity and inclusion goals. Just think of what that says for less high-profile efforts in businesses across the country.
We believe these organizations, however well-intentioned, are languishing in a stuck state. The key is for businesses to understand that diversity and inclusion are long-term goals that require long-term efforts and cannot be solved through short-term initiatives. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Our recent white paper, Overcoming the Stuck State offers some insights into the steps that need to be taken to get unstuck. Download a free copy here.
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