Corporate Diversity Leaders: Less Focus On Demographics, More On Belonging

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“There are champions of “diversity” and there are champions of a “demographic”. We need to be more concerned when something happens to one of us; it’s really happened to ALL of us. Being a champion of diversity means being a champion for everyone across ALL inter-sectionally, not just the familiar” — Candi Castleberry Singleton, VP of Intersectionality, Culture and Diversity – Twitter.

My professional HR relationship with diversity initiatives has always been, “meh.”

For that reason, I was thrilled to attend the “Beyond a Corporate Initiative: Making Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Real For Employees” panel at WorkHuman 2018. The panel included some mighty star power including Candi Castleberry Singleton, VP of Intersectionality, Culture, and Diversity at Twitter; Barbara H. Whye, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and VP of Human Resources at Intel; Willard McCloud III, Global Lead of Diversity & Inclusion and Culture at Pfizer; and Barbara Williams Hardy, Global Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Netapp.

I was sincerely inspired by this panel. To understand, you need to know more about my “meh” relationship with D&I initiatives, which I imagine that some of you have had too. It was not for lack of believing in their human value nor for a lack of believing all should be given equal opportunities to work, live, and be respected. My “meh” HR relationship was driven by the feeling that no matter what HR “did,” the task at hand was too big to tackle, too time-intensive, and, frankly, would drive limited results.

More importantly, I’m not sure I related enough to the stereotypical demographics affected. I’m a white woman. Yes, women are included in the “stereotypical” group, but to date, I hadn’t felt any professional pain because of my gender. How could I relate enough to lead diversity programs? Frankly, I didn’t feel I belonged.

The panel’s insights, given to a packed crowd, made me sit up in my seat. A D&I work theme loudly heard was that in addition to giving the oppressed a “voice,” D&I is also about creating safe workspaces for ALL to belong. For if one truly feels they belong, they can be their true selves. When you are your true self, you have more courage to speak your story to others. That’s the magic.

Belonging is a human issue, not just a demographic one. This was very powerful to me and to the crowd. So much so, I regretted not having this revelation in my earlier HR days, where the story I had in my head of “not belonging” in the diversity world was really off-base.

The panel also agreed that the issues we are seeing in society (#metoo, Charlottesville, transgender equality) are impacting diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. For new generations of workers are demanding companies to respond to social injustices in a very public way. This is new territory for stereotypically risk-averse corporations. They will need to navigate these waters now, or risk talent acquisition and retention problems in the future.

In the end, the panel hit home that no initiative or program, whether diversity-related or not, succeeds without the help and support of all. And for those leading D&I programs, it’s time to get clear on who your programs are championing. If your answer is not “all,” you may need to reframe your purpose towards creating a culture of belonging.

>>>This post was originally published on Globoforce’s WorkHuman Conference Blog.  To learn more about Globoforce and the WorkHuman Movement — click on the links.  Also, to continue the WorkHuman conversation, join your peers on LinkedIn by visiting


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Dawn Hrdlica-Burke

VP People & Culture/ Talent Consulting at Kinetix. Advisor. Speaker. Writer.

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