What I Learned From the Bloomberg Equality Briefing on Driving Inclusive Transformation in Corporate Equity

June 22, 2021

One of the biggest challenges facing American corporations today is figuring out how to performatively express support for the various social justice causes that educated young professionals tend to support in a performative fashion.

For media conglomerates such as Bloomberg, that means launching an "Equality" vertical and hosting virtual briefings to discuss how corporations can "inspire people to solve the world's problems." For others, it means hiring "diversity, equity, and inclusion officers" (DE&I, for the uninitiated) whose duties include attending Bloomberg Equality workshops and explaining why their jobs are so important.

Your Washington Free Beacon correspondent was among the "esteemed global audience" that tuned in to last week's Bloomberg Equality Briefing, titled "Corporate Mandate for Change" and sponsored by Cisco. To the extent we learned anything at all, it's that conversations about corporate diversity initiatives are comprised almost entirely of meaningless jargon that is terrifying nonetheless.

The first session, moderated by Bloomberg equality chief correspondent Karen Toulon, focused on how diversity officers have successfully implemented Orwellian incentives to "drive accountability."

Lorie Valle-Yañez, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at MassMutual, a life insurance company, touted her efforts to measure "the level of cultural competence of our leaders" via the "intercultural development inventory." Thanks to the company's focus on "transformative learning," those cultural competence scores have increased over time, resulting in higher bonuses for company executives.

Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter, discussed the social media giant's efforts to ensure compliance with its diversity initiatives by closely monitoring its employees.

"We've recently launched an 'inclusive manager' badge, which essentially is a program of recognition for managers who get this right," Brand said. "They've got to make sure that they're creating the right sort of cultural environment as measured by the inclusion index that we have as a part of our engagement scores, and we're sort of tracking that, if you will."

James Momon, senior vice president and chief equity officer at 3M, the Scotch™ tape corporation, used the phrase "critically important" over and over again to emphasize whatever point he was trying to make about his company's efforts to promote diversity. "Senior leadership is critically important, but how we cascade that accountability and that leadership throughout the organization, especially at middle-management level, is critically important," he explained.

Next up was an insightful discussion between Pamela Hutchinson, Bloomberg's global head of diversity and inclusion, and Shari Slate of Cisco, the event's corporate sponsor. "Wow, what a title that is," Hutchinson said after introducing her guest, and she wasn't wrong. Slate's official titles at Cisco are "Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer" and "Vice President, Inclusive Future and Strategy." She has clearly earned it, given the amount of corporate jargon she could cram into a single sentence.

"We choose to do our part, to bend the arc of the universe toward fairness and justice and equity and inclusion," Slate said. "We are always on; we are rapid responders. Everything that we do is high stakes. We have to have an abundance mindset because we are solving for all—not just for a few."

Hutchinson, despite her comparatively unimpressive title, would not be one-upped. "Last summer was a time of social and racial reckoning in the U.S. and around the world," she said. "Do you think this moment in time has fundamentally changed the role and potential impact of [diversity and inclusion] practitioners in a much more holistic way than ever before?" Of course it has, Slate concurred.

Another, more open-ended question—"How do corporations inspire people to solve the world's problems?"—invited a predictably incoherent answer about how "inspiration is the currency in this landscape." Slate argued Cisco was leading by example in a way that would inspire viewers to "join us in creating a bigger impact together. This is how we move mountains. This is how we do it together and I would say, let's go do this together."

No online workshop on corporate diversity would be complete without a discussion on how the denim conglomerate Levi Strauss & Co. is doing its part to promote inclusion. Bloomberg's Shartia Brantley caught up with the jean giant's chief diversity, inclusion, and belonging officer, Elizabeth Morrison, who detailed the company's efforts to provide a "safe space for employees to express themselves" without feeling "triggered."

To accomplish this goal, Morrison said the company has been hosting "racial healing sessions with professional mental health experts," some of which are segregated by race in an effort to promote a more inclusive environment. Before joining Levi's, Morrison helped enact similar diversity initiatives at Campbell's Soup Company.

Brantley asked what other advice Morrison would give the "C-suite executives [and Free Beacon reporter] tuning in on their journey to create an equitable workplace." The answer was disappointingly vague, as if to drive home the point that the entire hourlong seminar had been a waste of time, intended only to give exorbitantly compensated diversity officers something to do on a Thursday.

"They've got to lean in," Morrison said. "They've got to find out where the energy is and how they can make a difference."

Alas, your Free Beacon correspondent had tuned in for the sole purpose of finding out where the energy was, so as to make a difference by solving the world's problems. Perhaps the event's cost—$0, or $20,000 less than a Robin DiAngelo speech—should have tempered expectations.

READ MORE: What I Learned at the Aspen Ideas RE$ET Festival Sponsored by Mastercard, PayPal, and Prudential in Partnership with Bloomberg

Published under: Bloomberg , Racism , Twitter