List Chasing

In light of the recent Diversity Woman article titled We’re Number One, True Blue Inclusion would like to share the thoughts of our partner, University of Colorado academic Dr. Marci Eads.

“Why?” That’s still the big question about diversity recognition lists. And that question still needs soul-searching, individual answers . . . maybe more than ever.

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of “best of” lists for corporations. And the more there are, the more pressure there is to at least be on some of them. While some lists truly do measure qualities that reflect diversity and inclusion in a corporation, many merely scratch the surface. They may highlight the percentage of people of color in leadership positions, for example, or laud family-friendly policies, while not uncovering the on-the-ground, day to day culture experienced by managers who are, in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways discouraged from going after a promotion or using family leave.

Instead of using scarce resources to invest in truly transformative change, corporations are pulled into an endless “list chase”. Instead of probing those facts or behaviors that drive strategic, relevant change for a company and its diversity work, the “measures simply measure what’s getting measured”!

I’m not suggesting that every list is unworthy of the time or money. Rather, it is my hope that corporations can become more savvy consumers of these lists, and look beyond simply getting on a list – toward a goal of using lists to see where they are succeeding in their D&I efforts, and where they have room to improve. And that creators (and promoters) of lists begin to think of their work as that of both measurement and transformation. There is a tremendous opportunity inherent in this process and, right now, the opportunity is unrealized. It’s buried under the pressure of getting on a list at all cost, the maze of too many lists, and processes that place more emphasis on the score than what is behind the score.

A good list should measure things that matter, and make sure that what matters is measured. A great list should help companies see where they are excelling and help them excel where they are not. If a list doesn’t do these things, ask the big “why?” Why am I doing this when there are so many more important challenges for my time?

Dr. Eads is an expert in researching and evaluating, areas of gender, physical and behavioral health, physical and sexual violence prevention, and economic justice. She was the lead researcher on multiple research and evaluation projects with a gender focus, including large multi-year federal, state, and foundation-supported projects. She has also led the 2012 True Blue Inclusion Landmark Analysis of over 50 different Corporate Diversity Awards and Recognitions. Dr. Eads has taught undergraduate and graduate statistics and research methods for over ten years at the University of Colorado at Denver and Boulder.