Ethics Engaged | Fall 2020
An Ethical Approach to Diversity and Inclusion
Meaningful diversity and inclusion initiatives should be a foundational part of your organization’s ethics—and not just because the world is demanding action.
Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner
Head of Finance, International Legal Technology Association
Diversity and inclusion initiatives should be a core component of an organization’s ethical
framework. While it is important to speak out about diversity and inclusion, your organization
should also be demonstrating that it cares and is focusing on policies, initiatives, and training
to improve its diversity practices. Action is the best way to show that your organization and
its people truly care.
As society is pleading for more diversity and inclusion in organizations, the business case
for diversity is strengthening. McKinsey recently issued its third report in a series studying
the business case for diversity: “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters
.” Their research
shows that companies who have achieved more diversity are more likely than ever to
outperform their competitors financially.
Now is an excellent time to demonstrate your dedication to these values. Here are three
actionable steps you can take to improve diversity and inclusion within your organization now:
Open the Discussion
Talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion is a good first step in developing a
more robust plan and creating accountability. Your organization should publish a statement
making clear its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Prioritize diversity and inclusion at
the senior management level and discuss diversity and inclusion initiatives in leadership
and staff meetings. This approach shows you take the topic seriously and opens the floor
to discussions on how the organization is taking actionable steps, as well as other changes
it should make. Leadership should also use meetings to identify what harassment looks
like and make it clear people can speak up without fear of retaliation.
Form a task force to facilitate these discussions and identify ways to ensure diversity and
inclusion are considered throughout the organization in its decision-making, operations,
and personal interactions. Review your code of conduct to determine if discrimination is
addressed appropriately. (The AICPA Code of Professional Conduct
offers an example,
addressing discrimination in sections 1.400.010, 2.400.010, and 3.400.010.)
Set and clearly communicate goals each year for diversity and inclusion, such as recruiting
more diversity into the organization and onto the board, holding at least one diversity and
inclusion event each quarter, and compiling an annual diversity and inclusion report.
Review Hiring and Termination Patterns
Some of the most meaningful work your organization can
undertake to support diversity is ensuring your hiring and
termination practices are inclusive. Your organization should keep
the population of résumés for each position and documentation of
why candidates were not hired. This review will help you determine
if your hiring practices are weeding out diverse candidates. On the
other hand, keep documentation of why terminations occurred and
conduct exit interviews to identify if there are biases or practices
that are contributing to diverse workers leaving the company.
Something as simple as a job description can be detrimental to
diversity, so write job descriptions with inclusive language.
A 2016 study by Textio
discovered that phrasing in a job
description affected if more women versus men applied; words
like, “exhaustive,” “enforcement,” or “fearless” led to more male
applicants, while “transparent,” “catalyst,” or “in touch with” led to
more female applicants.
A significant component of personal ethics is to work harder on
treating people equally and giving more opportunities to groups
that may be denied access to opportunities. One way to achieve
this goal is to recruit at different schools. Perhaps your organization
tends to only recruit from large schools; in this instance, expand
your recruiting to smaller schools with similar majors.
Once your organization begins to interview and hire a more
diverse pool of candidates, it is important to focus on retention.
Mentorship programs, succession planning, skills building, and
assessment of satisfaction with work and corporate culture are all
good retention practices.
Also, ensure your organization has an anonymous way to provide
feedback to management and those with governance. If people are
comfortable reporting when something does not look right, the
organization has a chance to address it before it perpetuates.
Many organizations need to work to create a diverse and inclusive
culture because of unexamined biases they may not know they
hold. Harvard’s Project Implicit
offers ways to learn about your
unconscious bias: Self-awareness helps to correct behavior and
encourages individuals to question the thought process behind
their decisions. Incorporate broader diversity and inclusion training
regularly; you can include more diversity and inclusion topics in
your recurring ethics and sexual harassment trainings. Encourage
growth as an organization and as individuals.
Effective diversity and inclusion initiatives start with becoming aware
of your biases, then taking action to improve your behaviors, the
behaviors of your organization, and the behaviors of the profession.
Ensure your personal ethics and values align with those of your
organization, and if they do not, determine if you can change your
organization from the inside or if you should leave for an organization
that aligns with your values. Improving diversity and inclusion takes
effort and courage, and you can make a meaningful difference.
You can learn more about the Illinois CPA Society’s commitment
to promoting diversity and inclusion, including resources for
organizations and individuals, here: www.icpas.org/diversity.