Why leaders need to ‘put skin in the game’ on D&I

Dr. Tolonda Tolbert

In the wake of numerous high-profile police killings of unarmed Black individuals this year, the issue of racial inequality has catapulted to the forefront of corporate consciousness in recent months. Public statements flooded in over the summer, and a number of organizations announced new efforts to combat discrimination in recruitment, hiring and retention. Will the attention and action be sustainable?

Dr. Tolonda Tolbert is optimistic.

The HR Tech keynote speaker–who will address how organizations can interrupt systemic discrimination through their culture at the free, virtual conference later this month–says that the recent national conversation about race, and its reverberations throughout the world, differs from previous moments.

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“In the past, these conversations were mostly only happening with those negatively affected by systemic racism,” she says. “But today, those in the dominant group are questioning their own knowledge, thoughts and behavior–and, ultimately, it is when those with power put skin in the game that systemic change can happen quickly.”

Tolbert, co-founder and head of strategy and culture at Eskalera Inc.–which provides a platform to help companies cultivate, measure and manage a more engaged, inclusive workforce–believes that many companies have taken a “good first step” toward addressing systemic racism in recent months. However, without a hard look at how diverse and inclusive their own policies, programs and workforce are, pledges to support D&I ring hollow.

“I’m concerned that, in their efforts to publicly claim solidarity, they may not see their own organizations as part of the systemic problem,” she says. “When a company makes a statement of solidarity with BLM, and then you go on their website and there are no women or people of color in their leadership ranks, their statements seem disingenuous.”

See also: Making diversity, inclusion an “ongoing journey”

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Technology can play an important role in that strategy. Many companies, Tolbert notes, have relied on HR tech to advance D&I in the space of recruitment.

However, there is a “missed opportunity to bring technology in for culture building and seeing patterns of inequity throughout an organization,” she says.

Tolbert will dive into this topic in her HR Tech keynote on Oct. 29. Click HERE for more information and to register.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].