Experts: It’s time for the C-suite to step up and lead

It’s been said before, and Erika Brown will say it again: If companies want change, they can’t rely on human resources or an outside consultant to make it happen. Their leaders have to own the change they want to see.

Brown, Goldman Sachs’ chief diversity officer, made the comment at the first-ever Hispanic Leadership Summit at the United Nations Headquarters on Dec. 10. She was on a panel about how to get more Hispanics into C-suite roles, which because of pipeline problems is more difficult than one might think.

According to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, only about 7% of board members at participating companies were Hispanic, while more than 17% of the employee workforce identified with the ethnicity.

“We need to make sure that diversity and inclusion really is inclusive,” Brown said.

Just as Brown talked about how corporate action must come from the C-suite itself, Tammy Tyler, an employment law compliance manager at payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing service provider Paychex, recently said that sexual harassment prevention requires a company culture that starts at the executive level.

“It needs to come from the top down in those companies. And it’s a culture,” Tyler told Ladders. “You’re fostering respectful behavior, and making sure that everyone understands that from the beginning.”

And so the experts are in agreement: For businesses to meet their ethical standards and diversity goals, their top players need to be involved in the process. HR can be helpful, as can consultants and other outside groups.

But when it comes down to it, a company is its leadership, and those leaders have to be intentional in the way they run their businesses. Otherwise, all the lip service is just for show.