4 insights from our panel featuring DE&I executives

If 2020 shaped the imperative for businesses to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), then 2021 is the time for action. 

To help organizations work together and make progress on these initiatives, Guild recently hosted a discussion featuring four DE&I executives from across the Fortune 500, moderated by Johnny Taylor, Jr., President and CEO of SHRM. Panelists included:

  • Carlos Cubia, Senior VP and Global Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance
  • Deb Sinta, VP of Talent, Inclusion, and Culture at Tyson Foods
  • Dr. Johné Battle, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Dollar General
  • Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and People Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Read on for four key insights from the discussion, or listen to the recording and share it with your team.

 

Companies are already diverse. They’re just not diverse at every level of the organization.

When asked why DE&I mattered to organizations and how they were thinking about each element, all panelists started by acknowledging that diversity is simply a fact. At large organizations with tens of thousands of stores and even more employees across the country, a diverse workforce is already a reality. 

The key insight is that most of a company’s diversity is represented in the frontline—but it’s not reflected in management and leadership. Panelists acknowledged that it’s important to face that fact first to understand how to prioritize efforts. 

 

The focus on equity is the newest—and most important—element of DE&I.

As Dr. Battle of Dollar General said, “Diversity is a fact….But the heart of the matter is equity.” It means taking a look at your systems and policies to ensure they’re structured so that everyone can take advantage of any benefits or programs your company provides.

Deb Sinta from Tysons further elaborated that while diversity and inclusion have been around for a while, equity is the new, and most important, addition to the equation. When talking about DE&I, she says, “About six or seven months ago we actually added equity to the very front of [the DE&I] equation. Really equity was an additive piece, but it’s a value add. It provides us with checks and balances to make sure we’re doing the right thing, it gives us a level of rigor in all of our people processes to be able to stop and say, are we really providing equity? Do we have any systemic problems that we need to root out that might be causing unintended consequences or unintended inequity in our system?” 

Without thinking about equity in a company’s policies and processes, any diversity and inclusion initiatives can only go so far. 

 

Equity means developing talent and creating opportunity for all.

All panelists talked about the importance of equitable practices for talent development and upskilling. Carlos Cubia of Walgreens kicked off the discussion by asking: “Diversity is a fact. Now, what are we doing with our talent? How are we developing them?” 

Part of that is having a variety of education and training options for your workforce, from ESL  courses to credentials and short-form learning to bachelors degrees. Dr. Battle described equitable upskilling this way: “Equity for us says that if success is a 50,000 foot wall, everybody’s getting a ladder. We also anchor development in three things: we believe that all are capable, that development is a skill set and it can be taught, and most importantly is the belief in differentiated development. Not everybody learns the same.” 

 

You have to be intentional about systems to foster DE&I. 

While diversity and inclusion initiatives have historically been siloed efforts, the increasing focus on DE&I means that business leaders have to take an intentional, systematic approach. It’s no longer just charitable donations to community organizations or singular training for employees—companies have to think bigger. 

Some panelists touched on adding elements of diversity, equity, or inclusion to their company core values. But they all emphasized action as well. For example, paying upfront for employee education and training helps make upskilling initiatives more accessible and equitable.

To hear the full conversation, listen to the webinar recording. To learn how Chipotle is fostering diversity and equity for their frontline workforce, read a case study on how they built an equitable education program that creates economic mobility for employees and value for the business.

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