CEOs Take a Collaborative Approach to Creating More Inclusive Workplaces

Ann Jenrette-Thomas

Numerous studies show that a diverse workforce can increase innovation, provide a competitive edge in selling products and services to different markets, improve decision-making, and significantly increase profits. But, these benefits of diversity can only occur when all members of the workforce feel included, valued and free to contribute their ideas. Yet the onslaught of recent events, such as the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville, #take-a-knee protests, and debates about Dreamers, seem to be polarizing not only our nation, but our workplaces as well. How can we create a cohesive and productive workplace in an increasingly polarized nation?

A group of chief executives have decided to tackle this issue by creating the C.E.O. Action for Diversity & Inclusion™. The group is led by a steering committee of CEOs and leaders from Accenture, BCG, Deloitte US, The Executive Leadership Council, EY, General Atlantic, KPMG, New York Life, Procter & Gamble, and PwC. The coalition represents more than 50 industries, all 50 US states, and millions of employees globally. The objective of this coalition is to rally the business community to take measurable action in advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Signatories of the pledge commit to the following three initial actions:

  • Continue to cultivate workplaces that support open dialogue on complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion: By encouraging an ongoing dialogue among employees to gain greater awareness of each other's perspectives and experiences, and not tolerating any incongruence with these values of openness, signatories are building trust, encouraging compassion and open-mindedness, and reinforcing their commitment to a culture of inclusivity.
  • Implement and expand unconscious bias education: Signatories commit to rolling out and/or expanding unconscious bias education within their companies in the form that best fits their specific culture and business. By helping employees recognize and minimize any potential blind spots, companies can better facilitate more open and honest conversations.
  • Share best known—and unsuccessful—actions: Signatories commit to working together to evolve existing diversity strategies by sharing successes and challenges with one another. This will include creating accountability systems within their companies to track their progress and share regular updates with each other in order to catalog effective programs and measurement practices.

To date, more than 300 CEOs (including Stinson Leonard Street’s Managing Partner, Mark Hinderks) have pledged their support of the organization’s objectives. The list of CEOs that support the pledge continues to grow and additional signatories are welcome.

The emphasis on fostering dialogue in the workplace regarding sensitive issues is based on research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit think tank. According to its 2017 report, “Easing Racial Tensions at Work,” when employees are able to talk at work about sensitive topics like race relations, they feel more included and believe that their ideas are heard and recognized.

A key component of the C.E.O. Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ is collaboration. Signatories not only share their diversity and inclusion efforts, but are encouraged to actively support one another’s efforts. For example, organizations that have robust diversity and inclusion initiatives are encouraged to help those companies that are just beginning to develop their initiatives. In addition to the more than 70 successful workplace initiatives currently listed on their website, the signatories intend to come together at a summit this fall to discuss best practices and develop additional commitments. To become a signatory or learn more about the C.E.O. Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, visit

Ann Jenrette-Thomas is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Stinson Leonard Street. She is located in the Minneapolis office. For more information, please contact Ann or the Stinson Leonard Street contact with you regularly work.


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