During this year’s Caribbean Multinational Business Conference 25th Anniversary celebration, Diversity & Inclusion was on the agenda.
The Day 2 session was led by Leyland Hazlewood, world-renowned business advisor, and coach who moderated the panelists – Corey Smith, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at LVMH, Jackie Glenn, Founder and Principal of Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions, and billionaire entrepreneur, Michael Roberts as they shared their views on what diversity and inclusion mean now for Black people in 2025.
Sharing a quote to preface the session, Hazelwood quoted Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa who said:
“Unlike whites, who were relatively prosperous and had access to developed infrastructure, blacks continued to live in underdeveloped conditions and only had a theoretical right to equal opportunity.
The longer this situation persisted, the more entrenched would be the conviction that the concept of nation-building was a mere mirage.”
Corey Smith preferred to stay clear of the notion that this work is a mirage. He started by sharing that his first foray with Diversity and Inclusion started with his first job at IBM, which in 1968 dared to build a plant in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. He says
this was a powerful statement for a corporation in the midst of the Civil Rights movement.
Today he heads LVMH and he says, You cannot have true diversity and inclusion unless you have buy-in from the top, and what better buy-in than someone who is diverse themselves.”
As former DV Manager at MLB, he was referring to the announcement made by Miami Marlins to appoint Kim Ng as general manager.
He believes diversity is easy – companies can simply hire a bunch of people, but it is the inclusion part that makes diversity work challenging because now companies have to consider how to mesh people’s backgrounds with their experiences and how all of it fits into the company culture.
Ms. Glenn believes that it is practitioners like herself who make this work tough when they settle to work with organizations that have a less than deliberate and intentional goal to fix their culture.
She said, “We need to be able to speak truth to power.” Meaning starting at the top of the organization chain.
Dubbing this era as the 4P’s – pandemic, politics, prejudice, and protests, she asks – How do you apeak as an executive leader in this era?
In her own work, she does not appreciate indifference and bias. Glenn asserts that this is time for ‘courageous conversation’ on tone policing, gaslighting and racial overtones, microaggression, etc, and says, “If we can’t do it now, we’ll never be able to do it.”
Billionaire Michael Roberts is one of the early supporters of this concept. he started a program with Anheuser Busch back in the 70’s creating something called Partners of Economic Progress.
“Unless we own our own businesses, we’ll never have true inclusion.”
He supported Ms. Glenn’s position that the head of companies needs to first create the pathway to change.
The Federal Government, he believes, can push harder to speed up the process that will give a different response.
He described a brave new world that talks about the outlook of jobs by 2025, and how that will impact diversity.
He asked, “Are we ready to be replaced by artificial intelligence?”
He is also convinced that five years from now, as a result of technology, any job that is a task will be taken over and we need to prepare for that.
A very dark point of view, some might say, but one that may well put us on notice as we ready ourselves for things to come.