This article was written by Olga Mack and Katia Bloom, originally published on Above the Law.
As an homage to one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines of prose, we recently reviewed the diversity and inclusion statements of many Fortune 500 companies to see if “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Diversity and inclusion statements generally summarize a company’s positive and, often times, idealistic values that stakeholders, investors, clients and regulators can feel good about. Yet, a deeper look reveals that these are a thin-veiled mask used to hide the ugly truth: many companies lack the diversity they claim to value. When reading these statements as we look at the make-up of a company’s board of directors, we can tell whether we’re looking at a rose, or merely its thorns. Unfortunately, we discovered more discrepancies between actions and words that we wanted to.
Fortune 500 Company 1
Diversity & Inclusion Policy:
Best Talent. Diverse Experience. Inclusive Culture. Shared Success. [Fortune 500 Company 1] is dedicated to being a high-performing organization built on the foundation of a diverse and inclusive workforce, with individuals and teams working to blend a wide range of talents, experiences and perspectives in pursuit of shared purposes [emphasis added]. A culture that strengthens this foundation is essential to unlock individual potential and build business success. Our employee-driven Diversity Enrichment Council & Network along with our Women’s Leadership Network are key elements in our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Diversity Enrichment Council & Network and the Women’s Leadership Network are committed to increasing awareness of the meaning and importance of diversity and inclusion throughout the organization and supporting networking, development, recruitment and retention of diverse employees.
Facts: 27 members of board of directors, 0 women.
Fortune 500 Company 2
[Fortune 500 Company 2] family of companies and its employees are proud to be active members of the communities in which we do business. Building Communities the [Fortune 500 Company 2] Way is the blueprint of our commitment to support and invest in those communities:
We hire, retain and develop the best employees so that we may provide our guests with the unsurpassed customer service that is the foundation of [Fortune 500 Company 2] success. We actively search for a diverse pool of candidates to provide us with the depth of talent, skill and potential to meet our goals [emphasis added]. We provide mentoring, development and tuition reimbursement programs to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to build the best career possible.
We share our financial success with our communities by donating one percent of our profits to civic and charitable causes. Specific portions of that donation are dedicated to supporting minority causes, providing our senior citizens with a helping hand, and supporting other local community interests. Our employees also give back to the community by volunteering countless hours of service.
Building Communities the [Fortune 500 Company 2] Way is derived from our Code of Commitment – our public pledge to our guests, employees and communities that we will honor the trust they have placed in us. We do so by investing in our communities – by offering employees a great place to work, sharing our success through charitable giving and promoting supplier diversity. Through our ongoing efforts, we continue to help make our communities the best possible places to live and work.
Facts: 9 members of board of directors, 0 women.
Fortune 500 Company 3
Code of Ethics (excerpts):
The Code of Ethics contains values, standards and rules of behavior that are binding upon the Company, its officers and its employees at all levels (in this Code and for the sake of convenience – “the Employees”), and constitutes the value and normative identification card that reflects the values of the Group and the commitment of the Employees to conduct themselves according to it.
Dignity and equality:
* We are committed to conducting ourselves with equality towards all employees, irrespective of their race, age, gender, color, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, religion, political affiliation, membership in an association, or family circumstances, with regard to hiring and with regard to work procedures such as promotion, rewards, access to training, task allocation, pay, benefits, discipline, termination and retirement.
* We work to ensure that our employees work in a pleasant and dignified environment that is safe and without harassment, coercion or abuse of any kind.
* We require courtesy and respect among the Employees, and that each respect the other.
Facts: 6 members of board of directors, 0 women.
These companies may, and likely do, care about diversity, and have programs in place to promote it. However, by excluding women (and minorities) from the very top echelon, they are by default unable to practice what they preach. By its very nature, their board of director make-up flies in the face of diversity or inclusion, and, instead, perpetuates a glass ceiling. The aforementioned companies are just a small sampling. We will continue to hold companies accountable for having diversity at all levels of leadership. If you’d like to join us, feel free to share your own findings with the Women Serve on Boards movement at @BoardsWomen using the #F500Unmasked hashtag. Here’s to turning those thorns into beautiful gardens for both the current and future generations!