Some of the news over the past few weeks has compelled me to write about a topic that, frankly, I find cliche coming from me. Inclusion. You see, this topic has been forced upon me for my entire so it’s banal and exhausting. By no means am I a spokesperson but I do have to comment on a few things that I have transpired over the last couple weeks – Uber’s inclusion issues, the Oscars and why building an inclusive culture boils down to taking risks, making bold decisions and building diverse talent supply chains (diverse employees, suppliers, leadership and board members).
First, let’s start with Uber. If you haven’t heard about all of the Uber failings over the last week, you may be living on a desert island. But, seriously, here is the link to a blog post of a former female employee who points out Uber’s systemic sexism. Uber’s response, led by Arianna Huffington, a board member, includes hiring two black men, Eric Holder and, more recently, Bernard Coleman to tame the beast. Good job, Uber, for hiring two black men, yes, they are diverse but Uber appears to be missing the point. This a disingenuous attempt to salvage their tarnished reputation and I am not sure it’s going to work.
In order for Uber to be successful, a series of tough decisions will need to be made and some significant risks will need to be taken. Amongst these tough decisions, Uber needs to evaluate their leadership team and determine if top performers that do not live the values will be rewarded. This is a difficult decision in an industry that rigorously competes for top talent. Other risks that Uber will need to take over the next few months include passing on talented prospects that do not share their values and hiring others that share their values but may not look or think like other top performers in the organization.
Now, let’s move to the Oscars. Last year, I boycotted the Oscars as I saw that many people of color and unconventional films were getting snubbed. But this year, I felt like the best talent won. It was a bold decision for the Oscars to reward an arguably controversial film (made by a black director) the Best Picture award. The Oscars also rewarded other religions and ethnicities on a few fronts (actors, writers, etc). I hope that this is sustainable because, if it is, a Hollywood may have themselves a diverse supply chain in the making. It would be premature to make an absolute conclusion that this is indeed happening after one year of notable progress, but we can be cautiously optimistic that the foundation is being laid.
In conclusion, organizations that are willing to run a low-risk training program but are not willing to make bold decisions and hold leaders accountable will not be successful in building an inclusive culture. It is critical to not only take these risks but to also build a culture that encourages and provides safety in making bold decisions. Learning from Uber’s example, although they do face a tall task with diversifying engineers, Uber can find, bold, creative ways to diversify their talent supply chain. As for the Oscars, I hope the Hollywood diverse supply chain continues to grow over the next year. It will not be a quick fix in either case.