Diane Wong, Harvard Law School Alumna, Wellness Entrepreneur, and Diversity Podcaster (Courtesy of Diane)

Diane Wong, On the History & Trajectory of Diversity & Inclusion

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By Diane Wong, JD

Over the last several years, diversity efforts in the US have taken natural shifts and turns, following the needs of our society and courts.  The Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 ended legal segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination.  Its provisions forbade discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as race, in hiring, promoting, and firing.  Prior to CRA’s passing, it was decided that, “we cannot change hearts and minds,” but we can change behavior through law. 

In response, to ensure equality, organizations were required to ensure that employment and opportunity within organizations were dispensed fairly, without regard to race, religion, creed, and gender.  Throughout the employment and education sectors, Affirmative Action Officers (AA/EEO) were hired and charged with responsibility for fair hiring, promotion, and opportunity. Organizations expected their AA officer to minimize legal exposure, enforce regulatory compliance, and keep the costs of discriminatory practices down.  In other words, early Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) efforts focused more on compliance than holistic transformation.

The way we think about D&I in the workplace today is rapidly changing.  Historically, women and people of color have played influential roles in the advancement of this nation’s workforce.  Shifting demographics and social consciousness indicate that these groups will have an even greater impact in the future. To prepare, modern companies have to evolve.  Executive leadership must look into the hearts and minds of their employees, a necessity that was put on the back burner years ago.  

From legal compliance to organizational transformation in 2019, leading organizations are taking on the difficult work of D&I.  As data on the effectiveness of D&I comes in, organizations are realizing that thriving in the global economy requires more than simply expanding and diversifying the workforce.  A diverse workforce must have a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. By hiring and empowering Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) to transform organizational structures and cultures, companies are ensuring that the responsibility for D&I is shared throughout the company, not just the Office of Diversity.  To succeed, CDOs must be leaders, mentors, and advocates. Their commitment to equity, when coupled with an inclusive vision and a desire to bring others along, becomes a formula for shattering barriers in the corporate landscape and beyond. Looking forward, CDOs should collaborate and share resources whenever possible. The work of D&I is to enhance diversity up, down, and across the institution.

On Thursday, June 25th, 2019 Diane Wong, JD will emcee the 2019 Chief Diversity Officer Summit hosted by Blue Cross BlueShield of Massachusetts.
Registration closes tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23rd! Register Today! 

For more diversity insights and dialogue, tune into Diane’s weekly podcast: “Let’s Talk About Race” presented in partnership with Sommerville Media Center.