Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

Over 250 CEOs Pledge More Inclusion in the Workplace

By Leon Kaye


Companies have long touted their diversity and inclusion programs, but the statistics have shown that the higher one wants to advance in a company, the more impenetrable that stubborn glass ceiling can be. The result is not only frustrated and disengaged employees, but a recent study has suggested that any sort of bias in the workplace can hurt companies' ledger sheets.

To that end, over 250 CEOs have committed to the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge. The initiative launched earlier this summer with 150 company chiefs signing on. Since then, interest in the program continues to surge with more CEOs signing on ever day. Companies participating in CEO Action represent scores of industries, and the A-to-almost-Z roster includes noted brands such as Alaska Airlines, Kroger and Xerox.

According to this initiative's organizers, this plan is not just about talking points, but is backed up with real action. Examples of how companies are putting themselves out there in a move to attract and retain key talent are all over the map. In Silicon Valley, long criticized for its male-dominated "bro culture," various Bay Area giants are stepping over each other trying to stand out in this diversity and inclusion race.

Cisco, for example, has pledged a pay parity program that guarantees salaries are fair and equitable for all of its employees. Adobe has made moves to ensure a more diverse workforce in the future by launching a "digital academy" that will offer potential women and minority candidates educational opportunities for careers in web development. And HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprises insist they have two of the most diverse boards of directors in the U.S. Those companies are following the lead of technology trailblazers such as Symantec, which last year harnessed the Black Lives Matter movement as an opportunity to show employees how they can be allies on racial issues.

The professional services sector is also developing tactics to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion (now known as D&I), and some are even going "open source" in sharing these tactics with other companies. Big 4 titan EY has managed a microsite for over two years that shows real-world inclusion examples - across the globe - and how they benefit the organization. In an effort to demonstrate to its employees that a firm can be supportive of its employees during difficult times, Deloitte has expanded its leave program that offers up to 16 weeks of paid time off in the event a staff member has to take care of an ill family member. Meanwhile, PwC tells us it has been proactive in recruiting U.S. military veterans through a recruitment and training program.

The reaching out to all communities of all backgrounds take different forms. Viacom, which owns Paramount Pictures, describes itself as a "trans-inclusive" employer. The media conglomerate has supported the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Project for several years. Other firms, such as PwC, have started lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advisory boards, which offer a venue for these employees to share ideas on issues such as improving diversity planning and strategy.

Academia is hardly immune from bias in the workplace despite its reputation for being a bastion of political correctness. To that end, the University of Baltimore County (UMBC)* has developed what it describes as a "rigorous faculty diversity hiring protocol" to ensure all candidates have a fair shake during the recruitment process. The suburban Baltimore campus, which during the early 1990s distributed pink triangle stickers that faculty and staff could affix to their doors implying LGBT students had a "safe zone," has also organized affinity groups where faculty members of various backgrounds can meet, commiserate and find ways to make the 14,000-student campus a welcoming place for everyone.

CEOs who have made their businesses signatories to this initiative say an even more inclusive environment - and even approaching controversial racial issues head-on -  is in the best interest for both companies and their employees. In a public statement last month, Tim Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC said, "We are living in a world of complex divisions and tensions that can have a significant impact on our work environment. Yet, it's often the case that when we walk into our workplace – where we spend the majority of our time – we don't openly address these topics."

Image credit: Sean Davis/Flickr

*Disclosure: The author is a graduate of UMBC.


Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye