Our Multicultural Moment: A Challenge to Executive Leadership
For nearly twenty years, the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), in partnership with our corporate members and media partners, has led the effort to promote diversity and inclusion in our industry. We recognize that building Culturally Intelligent organizations – those that embrace the multicultural community, market effectively to it, and draw talent from it – is good for the industry and it is good business.
MFHA has made progress in many ways, and we continue to applaud the and innovative programs that some leading, proactive companies have developed. However, as the 2014 State of the Foodservice Industry Diversity Report confirms, our progress on talent recruitment and career development has improved very little in the past twenty years. Even as we have increased awareness and engagement on many fronts, the numbers of multicultural leaders in management ranks and other positions of leadership have improved very little.
Many companies that had aggressive diversity and inclusion programs in place several years ago cut back on those commitments during the recession and have yet to renew them. In addition, research confirms that a lot of companies are content to make minor, half-hearted efforts, but do not put the time and resources behind them to allow them to be really successful. Isn’t it time we got serious and did what is not only needed, but what is indisputably right and in the best interests of our industry?
The old saying that there is “no time like the present” rings true. We can continue to muddle along, give lip service to our industry’s challenges, or we can commit to really make a difference. Each of us has to determine if we are going to be a part of the solution or remain a part of the problem.
This is our “Multicultural Moment”; one that presents an opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and building Cultural Intelligence.
Here are some specific, clear and unapologetic suggestions we should all embrace to take advantage of this “Multicultural Moment”. Here is our Challenge to Executive Leadership:
- Get the facts about your own organization and be candid and open about them. If you have progress to make, acknowledge it. If you don’t have a strategy and plan in place, now is the time to put one together. Considering how long we have been aware of the need to promote cultural intelligence, our numbers are very poor when it comes to people of color and women in senior management and on boards. The numbers tell a story that is both clear and sobering. We simply have to do better!
- Find out why your numbers are so low. Ask the hard questions. Conduct a complete and thorough review of the recruiting, development, and advancement numbers for White males, Women, and People of Color. Don’t hide the individual group numbers. Call out specifically how Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Women, etc. are doing as an individual group.
- Challenge your leadership team, not just your human resource department. Ask them to come up with legitimate action steps to improve the numbers. Hold them accountable for minority talent development objectives.
- Identify high potential talent and commit resources to developing them to their full potential. Minority advancement will not accelerate without an increased effort. It is no secret that, at one time, people in power took deliberate and specific steps to deny Blacks and other minorities’ access to basic American rights. It will take deliberate and specific action steps by this generation’s leaders, especially White men and women of good will, to level the playing field for people of color and women. It will not be popular, or easy, but it is the right thing to do and our businesses will benefit from it.
- Meet with your peers and challenge each other and the industry groups you fund to develop SMART goals to improve the advancement of minorities and women in management.
- Report your results inside and outside of your organization.
- Engage ethnic and racial community groups and ask for their help.
If we are going to make meaningful, measurable progress, our executive and other senior leaders, including leaders of color, must do more. There will never be a better time to act. It’s really more about economic equality than just racial, ethnic, or gender equality. In a very real sense, this is our “civil rights moment,” both for our nation and our industry. The stakes are high for our companies, our industry, and our communities. Our future depends on our ability to create culturally responsive workplaces that can develop diverse talent into Culturally Intelligent leaders. The time to act is NOW.