No Time for Diversity Fatigue…Who’s tired?
Recent developments at the Supreme Court – and in lower courts and boardrooms across the nation – have cast a bit of a dark shadow over the world of supplier diversity. Those of us who are committed to creating a truly equitable business environment know that the work required to unwind centuries of marginalization and mistreatment of various communities is nowhere near done. In fact, research shows that businesses from traditionally disadvantaged communities will require 100 years – or more – to catch up to their mainstream counterparts at their current rates of growth.
So, imagine the reaction when we hear politicians, talking heads, and even corporate business leaders use the words ‘diversity fatigue’ as if they’ve been subjected to some adversity by being a part of a movement to bring about rights and access for those who have never entirely had them. Frankly, you must be in the wrong race if you are tired already. Our current situation is the culmination of hundreds of years of human behavior…it was never going to be rectified quickly or easily.
The decisions you make now will demonstrate whether you are genuinely motivated to achieve economic equity or going through the motions because it’s in your job description. America has, at best, been like a race with a staggered start. You cannot fire the starter’s gun for one group at the outset, wait 200 years to release the rest of the competitors, and then declare that the race is fair. Focused, targeted actions are still necessary to bring opportunities to those who were left behind.
If, at the first sign of adversity, you quiver, retreat, change your stance, or look to shrink your supplier diversity team, I challenge you to reevaluate your commitment to supplier inclusion. This is NOT the time to stop or even slow down…we must accelerate the movement toward economic equity at this critical time. Because the Courts and our elected officials have intentionally dropped the ball, that does not excuse you or me from doing the right thing. How one responds right now, while the heat is on and the spotlight is gone, determines the true measure of real character.
So, what do we do now? Whatever is necessary to tear down walls of separation and build bridges of inclusion. Those who have declared themselves ‘tired’ are counting on you to quit. Pause if you must, catch your breath, and think back to WHY you chose to apply efforts towards supplier diversity in the first place. Our commitment cannot waiver because courts and partisan politicians have dropped the baton. We must continue to tear down ‘good ole boy’ culture, corporate inertia, and all biases to make room for everyone. We must come out from behind the curtain and avail ourselves of the innovation, creativity, agility, expertise, and energy that diverse supply chain partners bring.
In the aftermath of the SCOTUS Affirmative Action decision, intentional leaders stay the course. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley announced that he is restructuring his will to leave millions of dollars to his alma mater – Auburn University – to fund scholarships for black students. He wanted to personally ‘make sure that Auburn remains diverse.’ Our own Tracey Grace – the CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts – joined forces years ago with a diverse group of alumni from her alma mater – the University of Pittsburgh – to endow a minority scholarship fund that has improved both the retention rate and graduation rate for black students at Pitt and helped to move the Rankings at the Pitt Katz Graduate School of Business.
These are a few examples of how individuals or groups can make a difference in the fight for diversity and opportunity, regardless of the whims of government or other outside forces. We have the power – to renew our commitment to procurement diversity to achieve economic equity in our supply chains and to step up individually to do whatever we can to make a better world. My challenge to you is to seize YOUR opportunity to make a difference – whatever your environment – and let’s continue to run this race together. We owe it to our children and to those who did the groundbreaking work to begin this fight/race not to get tired and quit, but to continue to strive towards economic equity. This is not for the faint of heart.
~ Ingrid James
(Ingrid James is the Director of Certifiably Diverse, at IBEX IT Business Experts)