Who Really Failed the Corporate Diversity Challenge?

By Dennis Boone

The folks in charge have some ‘splaining to do.

You can get a nuanced argument about this from almost any cultural anthropologist, economist or sociologist, but in general, the history of capitalism—the American stripe, and the various versions practiced around the world—can’t be written without highlighting major tipping points.

The first, those eggheads might agree, came when mankind moved from hunter-gatherer to agriculture. That took place over a period of centuries, depending on the continent, country and culture involved.

The second paradigm shift came with the move from agricultural to industrial, mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries. This time, though, the shift required less than 100 years to get from invention of the internal-combustion engine to footprints in the lunar dust.

We hit a third tipping point in the late 20th century, moving from industrial to informational age, or at least a blend of the two. The information part of that one took just half a century or so to play out.

From a capitalistic perspective, I can only wonder if we’ve already entered the age of a fourth shift: One from largely information-driven to one fueled by a mix of stupidity and insanity. Why? Take a look:

  • The aerospace wizards at Raytheon, a major defense contractor, recently accosted workers with in interesting spin on diversity training. It included encouragement for white employees to agree with this: “I can commit acts of terrorism, violence or crime and not have it attributed to my race.” As if ethnicity, rather than the violent acts themselves, mattered most.
  • Earlier this year, we wrote about the knuckleheads in the C-suite at Coca-Cola, but for a different reason than their training program that encouraged certain employees to be “less white.” How, pray tell?
  • Last year, as City Journal’s Christopher Rufo has chronicled, defense contractor Lockheed Martin conducted its own training sessions that encouraged one particular set of employees to “atone for their white male privilege.” In what way? By quitting?

Across the land, there is a movement among Fortune 500 companies to one-up each other with such holier-than-thou demonstrations and racial-apology tours. Anyone who steps back from the cottage industry that has emerged through the sick works of racial-grievance hucksters—that is, anyone who actually has friends of other races, is from a racially mixed family, or has worked well with people of all stripes throughout their careers—should be able to tell you that all of it is a load of unfiltered hogwash.

Not the diversity-training aspects of it; anyone working for a business should have real-world instruction on why we all need to get along, work together and advance a company’s maximization of profits. Ground rules do have their place, don’t you know.

No, something else is going on. And it’s leading a lot of companies to places that should scare a CEO of even modest intellect. The incredibly divisive nature inherent in some of these “training” programs will, I guarantee it, have a bottom-line impact one day. And not a good one.

While I might consider shorting the living hell out of shares of their stock, I wouldn’t invest a nickel in Raytheon, Coke or Lockheed-Martin right now. They are spewing a brand of venom that can only divide. For its division, by definition, when companies set up “safe” spaces and work areas roped off by race, ethnicity, gender, gender-identification (a ridiculous concept on its face to anyone who has ever had a course in biology), or other biomarkers.

Someone favoring these programs, please tell me: Where, in the history of humankind, have societies thrived when enforcing systems that grouped people along such lines?  Serbia? Rwanda? Tulsa in 1921?

Be assured, we’ll see more division, with tragic capitalistic consequences, for U.S. companies that continue down this path. The world is increasingly interconnected via commerce. In most of the other nations—especially those emerging from have-not status—what’s happening in America must be seen as some kind of miracle intended to help them close the gap.

Business exists to maximize profits. That benefits the investor, the management and—if it’s done right—the employees at all levels. Look no further than some of Kansas City’s shining examples of employee-owned companies for affirmation of that.

When stakeholders over shareholders, or social justice rather than the bottom line becomes the focus, leadership has fumbled the ball. This can only end one way.

It’s worth considering what’s happened —and what hasn’t—over the past 30 years since corporate diversity initiatives became a thing. In that span, the needle has barely moved on the numbers of women in the roles of CEO, and moved even less in the numbers of minorities at that level.

The people in charge today, in a lot of cases, have led these companies for much of that time. Why haven’t their careers reflected a commitment to diversity in promotions? By implementing these programs, they implicitly admit that organizations they’ve led are shot-through with bias.

Given that, perhaps the wrong people are being trained.

One response to “Who Really Failed the Corporate Diversity Challenge?”

  1. Scott Quinn says:

    Spot-on. Excellent piece.

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