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Ann Enthoven's picture

It has now been many years since the diversity and inclusion revolution swept the corporate world. Today, most Fortune 500 companies have a diversity and inclusion officer who superintends an impressive array of programs focused on the needs of a diverse workforce.1 Yet reports suggest that full inclusion remains elusive:

  • “Only a little more than 1 percent of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies have Black chief executives... At the nation’s biggest companies, about 3.2 percent of the senior executive positions are held by African Americans.”
  • “A meager 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.”
  • “There isn’t a single openly gay chief executive officer in the Fortune 1000.” As the Human Rights Campaign’s director of corporate programs noted,
  • “Being gay in the corporate world is still far from being a ‘nonissue,’” given that “many subtle biases remain in the workplace.”

Why have inclusion programs stalled on these fronts? One intuitive answer is that these initiatives have not lived up to the core ideal of inclusion. The ideal of inclusion has long been to allow individuals to bring their authentic selves to work. However, most inclusion efforts have not explicitly and rigorously addressed the pressure to conform that prevents individuals from realizing that ideal. This study hypothesizes that a model of inclusion analyzing that pressure might be beneficial to historically underrepresented groups. Indeed, given that everyone has an authentic self, a culture of greater authenticity might benefit all individuals, including the straight White men who have traditionally been left out of the inclusion paradigm. To test this theory, this research draws on the concept of “covering.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014