Diversity, why are we here? Ways in which diversity programs win and fail

  • Tanjia Coleman

    Tanjia Coleman

  • Tanjia Coleman

    Tanjia Coleman

By Tanjia Coleman
Re-imagine Organization Development, Inc.
Updated 8/19/2021 5:14 PM

Diversity is a guidepost that companies have measured for over a half-century now, yet despite the branding, rebranding and expansion of diversity-based initiatives, the efficacy of diversity programs remains in question. U.S. corporations have been challenged with making advancements intended for diversity outcomes throughout the past three generations. Despite the well-intentioned efforts implemented by organizations, pay, leadership, venture capital and board member disparities continue to exist. So if this hasn't been solved in over 50 years, what can be done to rectify the situation now? Let's explore.

So why hasn't diversity worked? We will explore each of these five critical areas:


• Resources

• Commitment

• Long-term vision

• Lack of will

• Culture


Diversity needs to be integrated into all levels of the business: team members, line managers, middle management, senior and executive leadership, board of directors and supplier diversity.

How does supplier diversity help? Organizations doing business with diverse organizations provide opportunities for those in the local community and work contributes to the sustainability of neighborhoods and communities.

According to Beroe, a leading provider of procurement intelligence and supplier compliance solutions stated that 43% of the 119 large organizations that they analyzed do not measure the ROI of their supplier diversity programs.


Actionable steps don't take an overly complicated strategy if you are an organization. Placing thought into actions like sending gift boxes, having lunch catered, hosting events or dinners ensuring that you are purchasing from a percentage of minority-owned businesses.

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Prioritize diversity efforts because boiling the ocean comes across as disingenuous and reckless.

Long-term vision

Create a multiyear strategic plan making this public through various mediums. An organization's website should reflect your organization. If your organization is diverse showcase this but if not, please don't use stock photos giving the image of having diverse team members when this is not the case. Instead of presenting a misleading image of your organization focus on making it a reality.

There are several organizations that made diversity pledges however, if the outcomes are not visible or measurable no one knows what is truly happening so the presumption is nothing positive has transpired.

Lack of will

Diversity is often over-orchestrated, however the formula is simple: treat everyone with dignity, respect, equity and understanding.

Most lawsuits that I have had to manage throughout my career were due to three core reasons:

• Inequity

• Disrespect

• Communication

Building the business case for diversity has been reviewed, communicated and researched ad nauseam. In addition, people have been pleading, convincing, and persuading others to believe the data that diversity unequivocally impacts the bottom line.


Why is diversity a business case that chief diversity officers must constantly communicate? This alone is a travesty.

Diversity is better not only for businesses but for the world. Since we are a global society and economic diversity is here to stay.

Leaders who are building their diversity infrastructure both internal and external to their organizations are winning and will continue to benefit from their efforts.

According to CNBC, racially diverse executive teams provided an advantage of 35% higher EBIT and 33% more long-term value creation. What is left to debate?


We all must be in a place where we don't look at diversity as something we have to "tolerate" but look at diversity as embracing and honoring differences. This is the humane approach to take with the added benefit of increased revenue.

For leaders who truly believe that one training course will solve their organizations' diversity challenges, they need to think again. It's the wrong position without developing an integrated diversity strategy.

Organizations have an immense opportunity to positively impact diversity efforts, but the willingness to address DEI as vigorously and with the same commitment as their business operations plans is the challenge.

• Tanjia Coleman, Ph.D., MSIR, is president of Reimagine Organization Development, Inc., and founder of Executive Women of Command.

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