The last 18 months have obviously been difficult for business leaders, because the pandemic quickly and unexpectedly disrupted business operations. Diversity change leaders rely heavily on relationship building to increase diversity in supply chains and the workforce. For diversity leaders in supplier diversity and diverse talent management, the most immediate impact of the pandemic was an interruption in their ability to personally connect with internal business leaders, employees and suppliers.
This could have so easily have been a time during which the diversity agenda stalled. For the 2021 Top 25 Diversity Change Leaders, however, the exact opposite occurred. They quickly pivoted and proved their adaptability. Some developed online platforms to keep communication lines open. Some developed online supplier training webinars. Some changed their focus to local collaborative strategies for supply chain diversity in response to global supply chain disruptions. Every Diversity Change Leader proved their remarkable adaptability.
Each year DiversityPlus Magazine asks nominees several questions to give them opportunities to share what they see as their achievements, their best practices to drive change, and their methods for championing diversity and/or supplier inclusion in their respective organizations. There is a noticeable change in the responses this year and especially to the question concerning best practices. Most of the diversity leaders made it clear they are laser focused on people opposed to metrics and spend accounting – on interactions, communications and relationship building. They support their business case with metrics, of course, but supplier diversity and DEI are about people. They promote honest conversations among employees, leaders and community members in various ways. They develop diversity champions to lift their respective company up.
The Change Leaders also help diverse suppliers increase their capacity for growth by providing capacity-building training within their organizations that includes the participation of senior leaders and procurement decision-makers. An interesting strategic shift has been more focus on local vendors, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities. Corporations have traditionally done business primarily with suppliers who are already operating on a national or global basis, because they have reached the desired scale. This excludes small to medium sized suppliers, many of which are diverse, creating barriers to their business growth and to community uplifting. A number of the change leaders are now working closely with local diverse suppliers and community organizations as a primary strategic approach. This is heartening, because it is difficult to watch large corporations fail to give their local communities the support and opportunities they need.
This year, the Top 25 Diversity Change Organizations represent numerous industries. They include financial and banking services, a special interest group for seniors, healthcare services, airlines, alcoholic beverages, logistics, postal services, biopharmaceuticals, energy and power management, supercenter retail operations, auto manufacturing, insurance, aerospace, and consumer credit reporting. The honorees are invaluable leaders in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space, and their influence is felt nationally and globally. It is these leaders who actually make progress. They walk the walk and talk the talk, as one leader said.
The organizations are at different stages, of course, Some of the leaders accepted the challenge of building Supplier Diversity programs from the ground up. There were leaders charged with taking DEI to global operations, a difficult thing to do because of cultural differences. Many of the leaders mentor diverse suppliers, so they can successfully participate in corporate supply chains. They work directly with internal leaders to set diversity goals and demonstrate the importance of holding them accountable for meeting goals.
All the Diversity Change Leaders outreach to the communities in which they operate. Another role many of them voluntarily assumed is advocating in their communities for diverse groups of people that were faced with bias due to the pandemic. The Change Leaders are peacemakers, consistently broadcasting messages of unity and inclusion. They also take the diversity message to the top leaders in their organizations. All of them agree the support of top leadership is key to advancing DEI. This is a fascinating group of leaders with a passion for diversity and a strong drive to help small businesses, women and minority-owned businesses flourish and their organizations reap the benefits of a diverse supply chain and workforce.
DiversityPlus Magazine proudly presents the 2021 Top 25 Diversity Change Leaders, and we encourage readers to peruse the bios with the objective of understanding what it really takes to make progress in the DEI space. It takes focus, passion and an unwillingness to accept anything less than progress. Change is not only possible, it is taking place right now.