The creation and sustainment of a diverse workplace culture isn’t just an altruistic trend these days, it’s also a pathway to business success.
That’s the view of workplace consultant and author Bea Boccalandro, a panelist on a recent conference on workplace “diversity, equity and inclusion” presented by the Downtown Vegas Alliance, a nonprofit downtown business advocacy organization.
“If we do well-executed DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), that leads to profound shifts in human interactions, culture and thought patterns,” Boccalandro said. “That’s going to show up at the surface level, which is quarterly earnings.”
Boccalandro said company cultures can change when what she calls “workplace societal contributions” take place. She said few acts can be as meaningful as the furthering social justice causes, which fall squarely into the diversity and inclusion categories.
“To me, there’s no question that there’s a business case (DEI),” Boccalandro said. “I think it’s so strong, if you want your business to be around in five or 10 years, you better get on board because this is going to be the new normal. You can’t run a business now and not take care of employee safety, and that’s how (DEI) will be thought of in the future.”
Nowadays, Boccalandro said, “nobody questions the wearing of hard hats on a construction site, but there were no hard hats in 1930.”
Boccalandro — whose book “Do Good at Work” came out this fall — did admit that research is inconclusive on nailing the correlation between being more diverse and making more of a profit, but she’s nonetheless confident there is a connection.
“If you think of it like exercise, we don’t measure the correlation between doing 10 curls over 10 weeks and living two additional days because of it,” she said. “But we know that doing regular exercise prolongs life. We all know that, it’s been established. When exercise becomes the norm, there’s this broad shift in our physiology. ”
Anthony McCrary, a Las Vegas resident who founded Diversity Management Partners, a DEI consulting firm, said the first thing any company should do is conduct an audit to spotlight what it is doing well and what it can improve on.
Before starting the firm, McCrary worked as a “multicultural marketing, sustainability and inclusion” executive for Caesars Entertainment.
“It’s good to commit to very descriptive DEI target goals and objectives,” McCrary said. “That takes a committee, often of executives and some ambassadors or champions of DEI, to help develop short- and long-term goals. Start small and take incremental steps to develop such a program.”
McCrary pointed to Caesars as an example of how firms can create different employee groups to study and track internal DEI progress.
According to Caesars, in 2019, the company’s management teams at its legacy propertiesuch as Caesars Palace in Las Vegas—were 45% women and 35% from racially diverse populations.
About 18% of the company’s capital expenditures in 2019 were represented by business transactions with “certified diverse” vendors, according to an annual report. The company says progress in both areas is partly due to its ongoing DEI efforts.
While DEI buzzwords and task forces have become more common in corporate circles in recent years, Las Vegas entrepreneur TaChelle Lawson (who was not a part of the panel discussion) said there’s a danger in trying to become more diverse and inclusive by simply filling a quota.
Lawson, a Black woman, founded the FIG Brand Strategy Firm, a Las Vegas-based consulting agency that touts itself as providing “diversity and inclusion brand incorporation without all the fluff.”
“Personally and professionally, I find this huge rush to diversify business to be irresponsible,” Lawson said. “I think companies need to be thinking about more than hiring blacks, Latinos and Asians to fulfill diversity numbers. It should be about hiring the best talent for your brand, not hiring because you’re afraid of looking racist.”
Hiring to fill a diversity quota, Lawson said, will end up making companies less inclusive.
“I’d be surprised if more than 15% of companies out there had an actual diversity and inclusion hiring strategy,” Lawson said. “The opportunity is to level the playing field, but too many are afraid to have those uncomfortable conversations about how we got here in the first place. Diversity is all around us, you can’t escape it. Where I think most companies fall short is being inclusive.”
At the heart of what would be a more meaningful sea change, Lawson said, is if corporate leadership structures were more diverse.
That would include executives, board members, and other corporate decision-makers.
According to Fortune Media, the most-recent list of Fortune 500 CEOs listed only five African Americans. That’s despite the fact that Blacks make up about 13% of the U.S. population.
“Look at any casino company on the Strip,” Lawson said. “They’re going to hit their diversity numbers. Plenty of Blacks, plenty of Latinos, but look at their leadership…that’s a different story. That’s diversity, but it’s not inclusion.”
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.