In the first of a new webinar series, Dean’s Dialogue, Marshall Dean Geoff Garrett sat down with leading scholars to discuss issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism in business on Wed. Sept. 2, 2020.
Although only an hour, the dialogue went deep as each scholar examined some of the most critical questions of the day—the changing conversation over ongoing systemic racism and how businesses can best approach ways of building an antiracism mindset in their hiring, retention, and leadership practices.
Panelists included: Sharoni Little: Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Marshall School, and Professor of Clinical Business Communication; Shaun Harper: Provost Professor of Management and Organization at the Marshall School, Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership at the Rossier School of Education, and Executive Director of the USC Race and Equity Center; and Sarah Townsend: Associate Professor of Management and Organization at the Marshall School
The following three webinar excerpts characterize the intensity and depth of the conversations.
Watch the conversation with Professor Shaun Harper:
Q: Geoff: “Shaun, you used an even stronger term, one that I think is being redefined right now: “white supremacy.” That had a very narrow meaning, and it seems to be expanding right now. As a cultural commentator, is that a positive development? Are there risks that come from broadening the conversation in these ways?”
A: Shaun: “I think it is a positive development. Many people of color have long understood white supremacy to not just be the KKK with cross burnings and white hoods and sheets but the everyday reminders of the centrality of whiteness—in organization, companies, and institutions—and seeing how white cultural perspectives, white points of view, have been privileged in policies and practices in way too many places. So I think that the rest of America is finally coming to understand what many people of color have long understood to be the multiple manifestations and dimensions of white supremacy.”
Q: Geoff: “Business needs to stand up and be counted, in a citizenry sense. We decry horrific police brutality. But that’s a very different question than what goes on inside organizations. And is having a mindset of antiracism a business advantage for firms? How do you think about the two-sidedness of this question for business? One of it is just standing up and being counted. But the other side means re-engineering potentially everything inside an organization.”
A: Sharoni: “It’s difficult to separate the business and look at it abstractly from the individuals who comprise the business, the human beings. So when you think about this notion that having a statement or even providing monies, what does this organization look like in terms of the experience of all people? Does your leadership reflect the diversity of either the workforce and/or the consumers? If you look at hiring, what are some of the barriers that have persisted?
It’s very difficult to separate any conversation about antiracism or anti-Blackness or even white supremacy without looking closer at how certain structures have been intentionally, not only constructed, but perpetuated. Businesses must go beyond saying, ‘I definitely am against all of this incivility and yet I don’t have any reflection of diversity in my leadership.’”
Watch the conversation with Professor Sarah Townsend:
Q: Geoff: “Can we go further than ‘Being antiracist is the right thing to do,’ to, ‘If you execute it well, your business will be more successful on some set of metrics?’”
A: Sarah: “That’s exactly right. There is good research to show that if you do this right, if you diversify at all levels across the organizations, if you establish a culture that is truly inclusive of everyone’s perspective, where everyone feels a psychological safety and sense of belonging, that you do get more collective intelligence. You do get more people coming together. Everyone puts their two cents in, and what you get out of it is more creativity, better critical thinking. All these things are true and can translate into positive impacts on the bottom line.”
Check back regularly for new webinars both from the Marshall webinar series and the Dean's Dialogue.