Keeping Diversity and Inclusion Front and Center

Robin Kelley

As Forbes covered in their recent piece titled “5 Reasons Diversity And Inclusion Fails,” one of the biggest things working against inclusion initiatives is a fundamental approach to implementing such initiatives.

In other words, author Glenn Llopis posited that diversity and inclusion efforts are yet to succeed in the workplace because they focus only on aspects like recruitment and reputation management. He explained that “what limits them is where they live: in HR and CSR – on the fringe and disconnected from enterprise-wide growth opportunities.”

Because of diversity and inclusion initiatives’ placement in human resources and CSR, these initiatives are often viewed as expenses rather than investments, which hinders the influence and growth of diversity and inclusion within a workplace. But what about outside of the workplace?

Beyond corporate diversity and inclusion, educational institutions also have a long way to go when it comes to promoting these initiatives across both faculty and students. When it comes to higher education and diversity, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is one of the best thought leaders in finding effective ways to infuse diversity and inclusion into everyday operations.

USC has operated a Committee on Diversity and Inclusion for over five years now, and it is committed to addressing racism and social inequity in a straightforward and hands-on manner. By arranging safe spaces, students, faculty, and university alumni can come together to have difficult and courageous conversations regarding the problems that “individuals, communities, and organizations” suffer.

The far-reaching work of this committee is spearheaded by Clinical Associate Professor Renée Smith-Maddox and Clinical Professor of Field Education, Rafael Angulo, who serve as co-chairs of the committee. Together, they work to bring current events to the center stage as a means for the school to focus on the issues that divide our nation.

Smith-Maddox stated: “We have used the work of activist groups like Black Lives Matter and invited family members of those who have been lost to police violence to speak on campus about the impact it has on our communities.”

It is precisely this kind of outreach that has positioned USC as a leader in the inclusion movement. With their efforts, all members of the school can gain an inside look at various social changes that are occurring in the world, which empowers students and faculty alike with the kind of knowledge that inspires activism.

Both educational institutions and businesses can learn from the work of USC and similar organizations that are finding ways to bring inclusion and diversity efforts front-and-center.

After all, the university surveyed students and around that nearly 80% wanted a course specifically devoted to the topics of diversity and inclusion. A similar survey given to university faculty noted that there was a strong need to develop a curriculum that would provide students with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of society’s most pressing issues.

For those in need of direction, USC’s initiatives are an excellent source of inspiration. After all, “USC Provost Michael Quick recently issued a mandate aimed at increasing efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion university-wide. One of the requirements was for each school to develop a five-year strategic plan.”

This plan is recognized as the first of its kind in USC’s history, but it’s also the first of its kind to be seen in most communities across the nation that are currently at a crossroads.

Businesses and schools alike are struggling to find ways to bring diversity and inclusion initiatives into their day-to-day operations, and it is admittedly a tough goal to accomplish.

As the exemplary case of USC proves, these initiatives can’t be seen as a simple list to check-off, but rather must be implemented in the form of fundamental principles to guide everyone from students and faculty to recruiters, executives, and employees themselves.

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