ATWG: Why Do Diversity-Management Departments Need Budget

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


This reader’s question is in response to yesterday’s Ask the White Guy article, How Effective Diversity Management Drives Profit.

Question:

What do you mean by “get budget” in item 2 of the article It’s mentioned again as “getting budget” in the last paragraph. Are you talking about corporations designating dollars or creating a budget for a “Diversity Program” I may be one of those you consider obstenately [sic] oblivious.

Answer:

Yes, it’s about budget for diversity-management efforts. The average diversity department in the DiversityInc Top 50 has 11 employees. Aside from staff, diversity departments typically have budget for data collection and analysis, internal and external communications, legal and compliance issues. Further, depending on the company, diversity-department efforts could include recruiting, talent development, supplier diversity, managing mentoring, employee-resource groups, etc.

Results from most DiversityInc Top 50 diversity departments are typically centered around the workforce (what we call Stage 2). Responsibilities include increasing engagement and productivity, decreasing regrettable loss, increasing quality of the labor pool, reducing exposure to potential liabilities (lawsuits) and ease of recruiting top talent. More developed corporate diversity efforts are also market focused (what we call Stage 3). In this small group of companies (the very top of our list), diversity-department budgets include line items for areas such as marketing, sales development, emerging market development, global business development and public relations. The best diversity department in the nation for sales development is run by Dr. Rohini Anand at Sodexo.

The most advanced companies use their diversity departments to understand how to foster and grow innovation (Stage 4); although innovation should be an endemic part of having a diverse workforce, I doubt the overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 companies are extracting even a minimal value from the diversity that they already have. On the other hand, you will note that there are four pharmaceutical companies ranked above 20 on our list. A pharmaceutical company without innovation is a generic drug manufacturer (compare the market cap of a pharma to a generic drug manufacturer if you want to understand the value of innovation).

It is important to keep in mind that many facets of diversity management have been put to good use by companies for generations. However, they’ve been extended only to white, heterosexual, Christian men with no ADA-defined disabilities, for the most part. You can tell this by their overwhelming majority of white, heterosexual, Christian men with no ADA-defined disabilities in the positions of power in our country: corporate boards, almost all Fortune 500 CEO positions, government, clergy, military, etc. What diversity management is about is democratizing the mentoring, cultivation, talent development and support that those white men received. There are only two choices: Either we haven’t done a good job of developing our nation’s talent pool equitably or white men have an intrinsic superiority in ability. This publication believes that talent is distributed equally, as people are created equally.

For further information, please feel free to read the thousands of pages of content we have on this site—available for free. You may also read DiversityInc magazine online for free.

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