After racial tensions, over 150 CEOs to sign groundbreaking pledge to create diverse workforces

With Monday’s launch of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, more than 150 CEOs announced that they pledge to to take specific actions to improve diversity and inclusion at their companies, in what the campaign is calling “the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.” Companies from more than 50 industries are represented, and a conference for signatories will reportedly be held in fall 2017.

The pledge, which details the initiative’s specific goals, says that “simply put, organizations with diverse teams perform better.”

It seeks to “increase equity for all,” and makes sure to specifically highlight people with the following backgrounds and characteristics: people of Black, Asian, Latino or Native American descent; women; members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or LGBTQ community; veterans; and the disabled.

Tim Ryan, the U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC and chair of the steering committee for the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion reportedly started the initiative following “a series of police-involved shootings” that sparked national conversation, which led him to create “company-wide” discussions on race in July 2016. Ryan’s early efforts to assemble of group of companies was highlighted in Fortune in February.

Tim Ryan commented on CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion in a statement.

“We are living in a world of complex divisions and tensions that can have a significant impact on our work environment. Yet, it’s often the case that when we walk into our workplace – where we spend the majority of our time – we don’t openly address these topics…CEOs across the country understand this isn’t a competitive issue, but a societal issue, and together we can raise the bar for the entire business community. By sharing best known actions and programs, we are helping to create a more inclusive environment that will encourage all of us to bring our greatest talents, perspectives, and experiences to the workplace,” Ryan said in a statement.

Who is involved

The initiative is headed up by CEOs and executives from companies like PwC, Deloitte US, BCG, EY, General Atlantic, Accenture, New York Life, Procter & Gamble and The Executive Leadership Council.

CEOs from Adobe, AT&T, American Express, CBS, Delta Air Lines, Denny’s, Gannett, DuPont, The Home Depot, General Mills, Lehigh University, United Airlines, and Viacom have also signed on, to name a few.

Specific steps companies have taken to advance diversity and inclusion— as well as the results–  are outlined in the “actions” section of the website.

What the companies promise to do

The pledge outlines three main goals: to keep making businesses open spaces to have conversations about diversity and inclusion, to incorporate and increase unconscious bias training programs with educational resources accessible on the website for free, and to raise awareness of practices that have gone well and haven’t. The companies who have signed on will develop “accountability systems” to monitor the efforts undertaken, and to let others know about what’s going on.

The nature of unconscious bias training

Facebook, which has reportedly struggled with its diversity numbers before, put unconscious bias training videos online in 2015.

Since bias can manifest in different ways — frequently unintentionally — four kinds are highlighted in the videos: “performance,” “performance attribution,” “competence/likeability tradeoff,” and “maternal.”

Maxine Williams, Global Director of Diversity at Facebook, commented on bias in an article for PDT Global.

She said that “people in minority groups are often not given the same opportunities as they are held to stricter and higher standards, based on what’s proven and not what they are capable of as a result of bias and stereotyping, which is sabotaging corporate efforts to create more inclusive environments…Unconscious bias training helps to not only make more objective decisions, but enables them to question whether they are being fair and consistent in their evaluations,” Williams said.

Business Insider reported that according to Williams, more than 90% of executives and more than 50% of all employees have taken the course, and that “learning and development team has adapted it to each of the 30 countries in which we have offices.”

Initiatives like these are especially important, especially because some employees have said that they don’t need more diversity.

There’s another step that should be in the pledge: Whether it’s in the form of affinity groups or diversity pledges, it’s important to support diverse employees after they’ve finished the hiring process. Hiring isn’t enough. People continue to need outlets for support once the position kicks into high gear.