Nearing the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many Delaware corporations are grappling with how to make more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces from the top down. For many, that means making space at the table for a chief diversity and inclusion officer.A Delaware Business Times analysis found that in recent months that while many corporations may have established diversity officers, initiatives or offices, at least six companies were making commitments to hire more staff to support them. Positions range from newly-created positions in top leadership at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, the University of Delaware, WSFS Bank and the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA) that would oversee a company-wide set of practices. Others, like publicly-traded The Bancorp and JPMorgan Chase, have started advertising for additional coordinators for diversity and inclusion. Sallie Mae and DuPont have announced new hires and promotions in similar roles within the last 12 months.Richards Layton & Finger President Doneene Damon will transition to a newly-created role of chief diversity director once her term is over next year, signaling a huge shift in how Delaware’s largest law firm addresses inclusivity.
[caption id="attachment_211694" align="alignleft" width="229"] Michael Conklin | PHOTO COURTESY OF WSFS BANK[/caption]
“Programs can end. This is about an inclusive strategy about how we do business. There needs to be deliberate but respectful action,” said Michael Conklin, WSFS executive vice president and chief human resources officer. “If we need to campaign every day to get this achieved, we need a person in place to really come up with a holistic strategy and ensure we are leveraging our expertise to reach our customers.”WSFS’s new director’s task is less about helping hit a specific target for hiring and promotion, as it is measuring how the company is doing overall, Conklin explained. That will include studying metrics and listening to the existing staff on hand.“It’s not about today, it’s not about tomorrow. It’s truly about what we can scale and evolve as a business,” he said. “What we look like today is different from what we’re going to look like in 10 years.”
[caption id="attachment_211696" align="alignright" width="286"] Erika Caesar[/caption]
For many companies, so-called D&I, or diversity and inclusion, positions, policies and councils have existed, but there has been a recent groundswell in supporting those initiatives with more staff. The Bancorp managing director and chief diversity officer Erika Caesar told DBT that the financial firm decided to add a D&I program coordinator since its program grew significantly over the years and “the need for an additional resource became clear.”“Internally, this person will enhance the relationships between our internal D&I council and other constituents within the Bancorp, particular with respect to tracking our metrics and other progress,” she said. “Externally, this role will help grow strategic partnerships the Bancorp has with the Conference Board Diversity Equity & Inclusion Executives Council, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.”The nation as a whole is growing more diverse, as the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that within the next 50 years 48% of the nation’s population will be from cultures other than white, non-Hispanic. By 2030, people of color are estimated to comprise nearly 28% of Delaware’s population, up from 23% in 2000.
[caption id="attachment_211678" align="alignleft" width="240"] Goes-Williams Associates president and CEO Devona Williams | PHOTO BY ERIC CROSSAN[/caption]
Devona Williams, CEO of performance consulting group Goeins-Williams Associates, noted that with the groundswell of demands for change, she’s seeing a lot more companies consider what it means to run a business in today’s world.“The population is more diverse than ever, and we may see most cities have a majority population that may have been marginalized in the past,” she said. “The companies that don’t change with the times, I believe they will go away. Talented staff will hold back and leave if they realize you are not being genuine.”Particularly in the nonprofit sector, the demographics can determine the course of destiny. DANA employs several consultants, many of which are devoted to equity, but the organization decided to create a D&I director position this year to address demographics head on. DANA President Sheila Bravo noted that nonprofit boards are thought of as stewards of the organization's assets, which means recruiting those with connections and fundraising power.“Over time, that does have a tendency to overshadow the importance of having a voice and offering a seat at the table for the community each nonprofit serves,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is create nonprofit boards with a culture that views things through an equity lense, and it’s not something that will happen overnight. We are not going to be the only resource, but we do feel like it is part of our mission to advance nonprofit excellence to pave the way for diverse, equitable and inclusive boards.”But shoring up diversity and inclusion programs with additional staff or creating new positions to address it is only one piece to the puzzle, United Way of Delaware President and CEO Michelle Taylor noted. Top leadership needs to follow-through and come up with a more concrete plan to streamline talented people of color to the top.“The D&I position has become the new thing across the country, and it is important to have so you can have that knowledge to take that cultural transformation and lay out the groundwork for it. But I think we all need to be a little more courageous about our decisions when it comes to that culture,” Taylor said. “You need to have these CEOs become more intentional about their organization’s own diversity and open it up.”By Katie Tabeling