I am a member of Jones Partners, a group of professionals striving to increase collaboration between the Houston business community and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University. Last night, as part of the Partners' Thought Leadership Series, we had the opportunity to hear from Larry Stuart and Subha Barry about why diversity and inclusion matter to business.
Larry is a partner in the law firm Legge, Farrow, Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown, LLP, where he serves as co-director of the firm's labor and employment law practice.
He walked us through the legal history of diversity law in the US, from the Civil Rights Act of 1965 through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For most of that time frame, diversity was seen by business as a legal matter, and not a potential source of business value.
Subha is the Managing Director and global head of Diversity and Inclusion for Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. She took us through the evolution of her company's thinking about diversity and inclusion, from the era of legal compliance to today's view that inclusion builds competitive business advantage.
Merrill now strives for diversity of thought, believing it will lead to innovation, growth and competitive advantage. Most of the writers about innovation also stress diversity of thought as a powerful source of innovation.
By increasing "inclusion" Merrill is better placed to win the war on talent in the institutional investor sector of their business. By increasing "inclusion" Merrill is better able to grow their business with private investors. By increasing "inclusion" Merrill is better able to compete in the world's fastest growing regions.
I took away six keys to Merrill's success with inclusion:
- Building awareness across the organization of the business case for inclusion.
- Striving to make inclusion the job not of HR, but of every manager in the organization.
- Adapting recruiting efforts to better attract today's best talent.
- Enriching talent management and development systems.
- Mentoring programs.
- Internal professional networks that bring together members of myriad minority groups to help each other grow.
And a final key that probably underlies it all: top management's deep belief that "inclusion" is really good for business.
[Photo: "Shards of a Former world" by Daliel Leite]