CEO coalition that promotes diversity wants to create a 'movement'

Perdue Farms CEO Randy Day says his company is benefiting as part of CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. (Perdue Farms)

A coalition of CEOs committed to seeing their employees accepted as they are is coming up on its first anniversary and packing plenty of momentum.

The group, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, which was established on June 12, 2017, has already become the biggest CEO-spearheaded operation of its type, counting nearly 500 members and having hosted a 250-person C-suite gathering to create action-oriented steps for organizations to put in place diversity and inclusion strategies. All told, 85 industries and sectors are represented.

Members include Randy Day, CEO of Perdue Farms, who told FierceCEO he joined the group because “We weren’t satisfied with our progress. We wanted to accelerate it.”

It also “felt like the right thing to do,” Day said.

With tools the organization has provided, “For me, personally, it has raised awareness,” Day said. “And it is influencing behaviors in positive ways.”

Since joining in July last year, Perdue Farms has appointed a chief diversity officer, Day said.

Multilingual counselors are brought in on benefit open enrollment days, all postings in the company are in three to five languages and on the company’s annual survey staff is asked if progress is being made.

Perdue Farms “is making progress,” Day said. “But I’m the type where I want to see more.”

RELATED: Companies not walking the walk when it comes to diversity, study says 

CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion was spearheaded by Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner at PwC. Ryan was moved to action by events that were occurring across the country two years ago that were racially motivated.

He saw diversity and inclusion as societal issues that the business community—especially CEOs—can have a critical role in addressing and that there can be a greater impact if executives work together, Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s chief purpose officer, told FierceCEO. After many conversations with executives, it was felt the best way forward was to develop a unique pledge with three actions that CEOs can take to make a measurable difference in advancing diversity and inclusion within the workplace, Schuyler said.

They are:

  • Continue to make workplaces trusting places to have complex and sometimes difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion.
  • Implement and expand unconscious bias education, where you don’t know you are acting biased. By helping employees recognize and minimize their blind spots, more open and honest conversations are targeted.
  • Share best—and unsuccessful—practices. Each member company has established programs and initiatives around diversity and inclusion. Yet many companies are still developing their strategies. The group is creating a unified hub that will house best practices from companies around diversity and inclusion and be available for all to use.

Looking toward its second year, the coalition plans to keep growing, Schuyler said. “We want to create a movement.”

RELATED: Boards still slow to increase diversity, set term limits

To this end, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion will, among other things, launch a nationwide unconscious bias tour aimed at getting workforces to recognize that unconscious bias exists and steps can be taken to mitigate it. The coalition will release a free set of diversity resources. And it will invite other leaders to join and help expand its community to 1,000 CEOs.

In judging progress so far, a survey by the coalition of its members showed:

  • 78% feel that CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion has had a positive impact in their organization.
  • 89% are having complex and sometimes difficult conversations about a range of diversity and inclusion topics.
  • 89% are implementing/or have implemented unconscious bias education.
  • 58% are leveraging the CEO Action peer community to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.