Top Examples of Executive Diversity Initiatives for Business Leaders to Follow

Executive diversity

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Respected and revered business consulting firms like McKinsey & Company, Deloitte Consulting and PwC Advisory Services have been saying it for almost a decade: Diversity matters. Businesses that effectively integrate diverse backgrounds — ethnicity, age, and gender — into their workforce and leadership see higher performance, better morale, greater innovation, and overall more success.

Yet, for years, major organizations have done little to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion beyond paying lip service to the concept. Now, as consumer and employment trends shine a spotlight on employers’ actions regarding diversity and inclusion, more organizations than ever are putting more effort into how executive teams are viewed.

Executive diversity initiatives help bring diversity and inclusion into the core of business operations. Executives uncertain how to introduce greater diversity and inclusion into their business leadership might consider the following initiatives from organizations around the world dealing with the same issue.

Ethnic Diversity

Beginning on July 13 and heading into June 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement sparked countless international racial justice protests, which primarily targeted inequitable treatment of racial and ethnic minorities by justice systems but also confronted corporations about their ethnic representation in boardrooms and the c-suite. Many organizations have responded to calls for diversity and inclusion with acknowledgment of their failures and demonstrated commitment to improvement. The largest and most influential of these companies include:

Alphabet. Google’s parent company — and the owner of other tech ventures like YouTube, Nest, Fitbit, Waymo, and more — has promised to fill 30 percent of its leadership positions with employees from underrepresented groups. The company intends to accomplish this goal by 2025.

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General Motors. In addition to publicly condemning police brutality and racial violence and donating over $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, GM has created an Inclusion Advisory Board to investigate barriers to inclusivity within its workforce.

Salesforce. From the company’s Racial Equality and Justice Task Force, Salesforce has committed to the following goals with a deadline of the end of 2023: double Black employees in leadership (VP+); increase Black employees in the U.S. by 50 percent; spend $100 million with Black-owned businesses and increase minority-owned business spending 25 percent year-over-year.

Age Diversity

Recent research has found that there are great benefits to the diversity of ages of employees within a single workforce. Older employees can offer their real-world experience, which might include a nuanced understanding of the regulatory environment or an ability to anticipate unseen roadblocks, and younger employees can bring their creativity, enthusiasm, and energy. Combined, an age-diverse and -inclusive workforce promises both stability and innovation, leading an organization to success.

In the United States, workers are ostensibly legally protected from age discrimination from the age of 40 and up, but various Supreme Court decisions have undermined age discrimination laws, making them all but unenforceable.

The result has been an increase of about 23 percent in age discrimination for workers 55 and older over the past 20 years. Because people are healthy and active for much longer, many want to remain in the workforce into their senior years, but discrimination in hiring and firing has limited older workers’ access to jobs.

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This is even true in the highest levels of business leadership; candidates for board chairs around the age of 59 have a 50:50 chance of being appointed, but the chances of appointment for candidates over the age of 71 drops to 1 in 10.

The truth is that it is never too late to enroll in executive education online, and that executives of all ages can have a positive impact on a company. Unfortunately, age discrimination is among the most overlooked biases in the workplace, and few organizations have taken a stance against it. Some of the best examples of initiatives to overcome age discrimination include:

Huntington Ingalls Industries. HII is the largest military shipbuilding company in the U.S., and it keeps its apprentice program open to applicants of all ages.

PNC Financial Services. A major U.S. financial services provider, PNC offers a cross-generational mentorship program that strives to pair workers of different ages and backgrounds for mutual learning.

Gender Equality

In the workforce, gender equity took a significant hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, many women-dominated industries saw an increase in restrictions and a drop in funding, leading to massive layoffs. Next, when working parents were forced to choose between their careers and childcare due to the closing of schools and daycare centers, an overwhelming number of women opted to stay home with their kids while men continued to work.

Unfortunately, two years from the beginning of the pandemic, many women have not been able to return to the workplace. Before the pandemic, organizations were taking strides toward gender equity, even in the highest levels of business leadership, but notable gaps have remained in representation and pay for female workers. Some companies that are invested in boosting women’s success include:

Aramark. This food, facilities, and uniform company increased the number of women on its board from 0 to 30 percent in just five years.

Medtronic. Earning a Catalyst Award for accelerating the progress of women in the workplace, this global leader in medical devices has achieved 99 percent pay equity globally and offers many development programs to increase hiring, promotion, mentorship, and support of female employees.

Organizations fighting for diversity and inclusivity demonstrate how beneficial it can be to involve workers and leaders of different backgrounds. Executives should do what they can to learn about issues impacting diversity and inclusion within their own companies and develop programs to make equality a reality today.