Diversity & Inclusion efforts in 2021: some reasons to be optimistic
On Martin Luther King Day, 2021, there are some D&I efforts that provide hope for the future.

In its November 28th, 2020 issue, The Economist published a piece titled “Social unrest has fueled a boom for the diversity industry”. The first paragraph described unprecedented commitments by “America Inc” in response to the BlackLivesMatter movement. Commitments that went beyond the tokenism of hiring a black woman to fill an often disempowered D&I division in the human resources department even though FastCompany does report an increasing demand for chief diversity officers.   

 Of course, some of these initiatives are met with skepticism and even cynicism. A friend reposted a link to our Quorum Summit which highlights groundbreaking developments on LGBTQ+ diversity on corporate Boards and the first comment underneath was “Yeah, we’ll see. Same old same old.”

 This skepticism, and the public anger we witnessed in 2020, are the reasons why this time, the corporate mindset change around inclusion could be real. The scrutiny from consumers, employees and shareholders has never been that intense.

 For the first time this generation of the U.S. workforce, consumers and investors is not only demanding a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion but also paying attention to metrics. Whether through the #MeToo or the #OscarsSoWhite hashtags, companies have received the message that their internal actions must match their words. The more a company will clean house internally, the more credible it will be when it speaks out on social issues. And chances are, it will have to in 2021 as corporate activism becomes the norm. In response to this attention to numbers, companies are increasingly transparent about both efforts and progress. As an example, Netflix commissioned and published a report on its inclusion efforts.

 Candidates and buyers are now quick to cut through corporate messaging and symbolic actions. But they are also quick to reward companies that they feel are authentic (as an example 46% of consumers are likely to purchase Nike products in response to the “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign). Investors increasingly do the same (read: do you investments support LGBT Equality?)

 One of the clear indications that change is on the way is that companies are placing their money where their mouth is. In recent days, several announcements made the headlines. JP Morgan just made a four-year $1 million commitment to support Out & Equal in exchange for internal support. Starbucks announced a $100 million fund aimed at investing in community development projects and small businesses in areas populated by Black, Indigenous and people of color. Apple also said it will spend $100 million to promote diversity and racial equality.

 Whether it is inside or outside the walls of the company, 2021 might be a turning point in capitalism gradual transformation for the better.

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