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The Paradox of Diversity

There are real paradoxes afoot; real challenges. And at least 175 company CEOs and executives recognize it. The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is a wonderful campaign and we all have very high expectations. Our only hope? It’s not just another great campaign. While running the risk of sounding a little negative, unless companies truly address the issues head-on, this is precisely what it will be. I long to see a new landscape. I’m rooting for its success!

Historically, we’ve wanted to fix issues without emphatically identifying their benefits to select populations. We’ve long wanted to fix diversity and inclusion in our companies, without truly addressing the benefits of D&I’s absence. We wish to fix the income disparity issues for women? Though it’ll take over a century and a half based on the widely held projected finish line from the current remedy methodology. To get to a point where being a man doesn’t matter, we have to acknowledge where it does. To arrive at a place where race doesn’t matter, we have to acknowledge where it does; emphatically.

Unlike the airline industry, our businesses have not addressed problems of this magnitude in a black box thinking way. There is a reason why no two planes crash for the same reason. In an attempt to minimize risk, blame, and legality, companies address issues, without identifying them directly. Plausible deniability is never too far. By acknowledging the genesis and benefits of current structures, we can identify how to level them. We must stop exercising the glad-handing muscle and truly attack these tough issues head-on. And like any good business problem, someone has to run point and be held accountable. This will take some real chutzpah. If I can be so frank? This sh*t won’t be easy!

To illustrate, it is not the “thought” of the large Black guy that causes different treatment. Yet we address “diversity of thought” to address diversity and inclusion. I get it in theory. It’s cute. However, in many settings, his “thought” doesn’t stand a chance because of its packaging. Unconscious bias training is valuable for sure. But as an element in a holistic solution. To truly get at the issues, we must address the paradox. To arrive at a place in our world where race doesn’t matter, we must first address where race matters.

I suppose I’m taking a page from the book of today’s political environment of being less politically correct. I simply wish to do it with a level of deep study, facts, and intellectualism. We all have to get fine with straight-talk in a respectful and solutions-based fashion. The Stroop Effect is real. Idiosyncratic Rater Effects are real. Yet we continuously attack today’s problems with yesterday’s approaches and little systemic address. The processes that we lead under were long ago put into place with a one-sided mindset. It will take massive action to reverse and rectify.

We have much work to do. We want desperately to drive deeper connections for better employee engagement. We want to close the pay disparity gap. We want our organizations to provide the solutions that only a diverse workforce can. But to do so, we have to be willing to identify why the challenges exist in the first place, the benefits and benefactors of said systems and the strategic redesigning of those systems for sustainable success. It won’t be easy.

Check out the Leadership is Personal Report (under the news tab) to learn more about The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion or to see more from your favorite publications.

Have an epic week!

Leadership is personal!

Kevin D Wright believes leadership is personal. The author of Better Results! he’s a dynamic international speaker, consultant and executive coach covering leadership, performance, and D&I. The former Head of MultiCultural, Private Client Group and Underbanked Product Development and Strategy for U.S. Bank, he partners with organizations to get the most from their talent and customers; even tackling the toughest of topics. Visit to learn more and see how Kevin can assist you.

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