Profitability for companies that are diverse and inclusive is a hot topic right now.
Kimberly Lee Minor, CEO, and CMO of Bumbershoot, where she helps business leaders strategically reposition their cultures for collaboration and inclusivity to provide a welcoming and empowering community for career acceleration of women and people of color, is hosting a weekly Get P.A.I.D (Profitable Advantage of Inclusive Diversity) video series where she chats with her co-host, Debra Schwartzfarb, a senior HR executive, on a variety of topics including ageism, sexism, racism, challenges recruiters might have pitching minority candidates for jobs, challenges woman job seekers are facing right now, underestimation, among other important topics.
Prior to starting Bumbershoot, Kimberly held numerous executive merchandising, strategy, and brand management roles at Bath and Body Works, Nine West, Talbots, Anne Taylor Loft, among other fashion brands.
Harlem World Magazine: Who inspired you to do the work that you are doing?
Kimberly Lee Minor: My parents. They raised me to believe “there but by the grace of God go I,” 1 Corinthians:15:10.
HW: What inspired you to create Get P.A.I.D (Profitable Advantage of Inclusive Diversity)?
KLM: I have been in corporate America for over 20 years and have seen first-hand what motivates business leaders. In order to drive cultural change, there has to be an investment in equity, inclusion, and diversity that shows a return. I want to be a resource for employees or job seekers who need answers and motivation. Minorities in the majority of workplaces are often made to feel that problems fitting in are shortcomings of the employee and not the corporation. Over 40% of people of color share feelings of workplace isolation, compared to 7% of white men. This isolation presents itself in a lack of sponsorship or allyship, thereby leaving the employee to navigate office politics and other important nuances by themselves. I created Get P.A.I.D. to articulate the benefits of inclusion and diversity, and to give employees and jobseekers insights that they might not otherwise have.
HW: What are some of the key factors for companies to understand strategically repositioning their company?
KLM: The best organizations know that diversity and inclusion efforts are the right things to do for society, and for the growth and sustainability of their business. Yet, the majority of organizations still struggle to turn their aspirations into achievements.
Over the past year, many companies such as Goldman Sachs called for more diversity on boards of directors in the companies that they take public, and organizations such as Pull up for Change called for popular brands to provide consumers greater transparency into their executive leadership statistics. Such exposure has led to both positive and negative results.
On the positive side, it is creating opportunities for those traditionally overlooked on the basis of ethnicity, gender, geographic location, academic experience, and more. On the negative side, many companies have made knee-jerk changes in fear of public shame and to check the box.
Leading to “tokenism” or “only one” syndrome.
To solve this problem, companies must be focused on creating opportunities for inclusion and developing talent throughout the succession pipeline.
Creating an intentional and integrated approach to diversity, equity and inclusion is a formidable competitive asset. However, like all business decisions, the cost of investment in developing company culture should be weighed against the benefits.
Companies must start by understanding the cost of not investing. According to one Stanford University study, tokenism and an unwelcoming workplace can lead to a 40 – 50% reduction in productivity, and if you consider the cost to recruit, relocate and replace professional employees who are not successfully integrated or who choose not to stay in unwelcoming workplaces, the average loss is $15k per employee, and in the cases of director level and above losses are much higher ranging from $50k – 250k.
Tone deafness or cultural missteps due to lack of diverse representation at the table can also cost market share, the loss of customers, reputation, unpurchased inventory, and more. For example, in the H&M Monkey T-shirt debacle – for a company H&M’s size, it is entirely conceivable that writes offs were nearly $3mm, all from lacking crucial diverse voices in the product decision making.
On the bright side, McKinsey states that one-third of the companies they surveyed have made significant DEI gains over the past five years, and are increasingly pulling ahead of their industry peers in financial performance.
According to Deloitte, decisions from groups of employees coming from a diversity of backgrounds can reduce risks by 30% while improving innovation by 20%. The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity.
Leading think tanks predict that through 2022, 75% of organizations with diverse leaders and inclusive cultures will exceed their financial targets. Also recruiting from a diverse pool of candidates increases an employer’s chances of finding the very best person for the job.
HW: What are some of the pivots that women and people of color job seekers have to make as they look for jobs in this COVID and BLM environment?
KLM: Women and people of color need to look to their communities for support because this is a difficult time to navigate and land successfully. It is also a unique time to find training and platforms to help you get and keep your skills relevant. Use working from home or idle time as a benefit. Look for new side hustles that you can work into new full-time opportunities. Do not waste your time on getting rich quick pyramid schemes. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a thoughtful and strategic pivot.
There are so many free workshops and webinars available through social media. LinkedIn is more important than ever in making professional connections. Step outside of your comfort zone, research people who are doing what you would like to do – and then, reach out. Many people who are doing videos, leading cohorts, or are SMEs on LinkedIn are more than willing to connect and offer guidance.
HW: What advice do you have for young mini-Kimberly Lee Minor who want to follow in your pumps?
KLM: Firstly, make sure the pumps aren’t just fly, they must be comfortable because you have a lot of territories to cover! Stay curious, ask questions, and embrace that you don’t know what you don’t know. Do not network just to build your business card file. Fail fast, cry for a minute, note the lesson, and keep it moving. Pause when you need to, give yourself and others grace. There is no power in bitterness, exhaustion, and burnout. Follow a cause, not a person. Remember where you come from, if you don’t know do some research. You need a strong sense of self to make a difference in the world. Determine how you can leave the world a better place and set to it. Pray every day.
HW: Will Inclusiveness and Diversity continue to be an on-going problem for companies or do you see change? If you see this as a continuum, what does that mean for job seekers planning for the long-term (10, 20, 30 years) or opening their own businesses?
I believe that it will be an on-going problem and I see iterative improvements. I don’t believe that most leaders wake up thinking that diversity isn’t important. I actually believe that they often don’t necessarily think about it at all.
Historically, work diversity originated with government initiatives. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 made it illegal for businesses to practice discriminatory hiring or firing. This focus on the moral obligation to remediate historical discrimination led first to quotas and later participation goals for some institutions of higher education and employers.
However, diversity without equity and inclusion (“intention”) will not attract and retain diverse talent, get that talent fully engaged, foster innovation, or lead to business growth. That is why we often witness the “revolving door” syndrome with regard to retaining talented women and people of color.
It’s been 56 years since it became illegal to practice discriminatory hiring and firing, and while we have made significant advancements according to the McKinsey/Leanin.org statistics below, there is much still to do. It will take more time, attention, and public pressure for more equitable changes.
According to the research, men and women of color are equal at 18% of entry-level positions, however, this equity declines significantly as you continue up the corporate ladder, especially for women of color and for all people of color compared to white counterparts.
A sample of numbers are as follows:
- White men 44%
- White women 26%
- Men of color 18%
- Women of color 12%
- Vice President
- White men 57%
- White women 23%
- Men of color 13%
- Women of color 6%
- White men 66%
- White women 19%
- Men of color 12%
- Women of color 3%
If you are opening your own business, you obviously can influence these numbers directly. Make sure that you surround yourself with a diverse team of the best people. As a business owner, you can be on the frontline of making meaningful change.
HW: More and more we see women and people of color in corporate positions, running large companies, as business owners yet we are still are experiencing such critical moments in our lives like Black Lives Matter, why?
LM: I think it is an illusion, in actuality, there are only 4 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and they are all men. There are no women who are running Fortune 500 companies. There are many professional people of color, but let’s take a look at the actual numbers. Black people are 13% of the US population, 3.2% of corporate senior leadership roles, and 0.8% of corporate CEO’s. I believe this reality check, in part, explains why we are still experiencing critical moments like Black Lives Matter.
I believe that something happened in May that drove diverse groups of young people to act. And as many or more people as you saw coming together to protest and tell the world that they were in this together and ” Black Lives Matter,” there were also people who were silent or countered with “all lives matter”. Outside of the corner offices, and fancy clothes (or maybe even in them) we know that sadly not much has changed, and we could be Breonna Taylor or Sandra Black, and Trevon Martin could be our son.
While I am extremely encouraged that so many people are finally acknowledging the problem of systemic racism and bigotry there are many who still don’t see it or believe it and some of those people are in powerful positions. Until there is a change in who holds the power, the struggle will remain.
HW (BONUS): How do you see the 22nd century different from the 21st century for women and people of color (if you do)?
LM: I believe that Gen Z and younger generations are the future for a more equitable society. This is the last generation that will be majority white 52%, dropping from 61% with Millennials. The idea of a Black President is not exceptional to them, it’s normal. Gen Z has grown up experiencing diversity, and they feel overwhelmingly positive about it. This positive perspective about diversity should have an overwhelming influence on progress for women and people of color.
HW: Thank you.