Al Vivian Discusses Diversity Initiatives and Why Companies Should Hire Women

Al Vivian Discusses Diversity Initiatives and Why Companies Should Hire Women

Al Vivian, founder of BASIC Diversity, and son of Dr. C.T. Vivan, was grounded early on by his father’s work in civil and human rights. But the younger Vivian has cemented his own place in history with over 30 years in the diversity and human resources arena, including eight years as a captain in the U.S. Army. A much sought-after speaker and diversity trainer, Vivian spoke to ro at length about the need to press on.

What issues should America’s managers and boards of directors be concerned with most?
One, inclusive leadership. At BASIC Diversity, we don’t talk about diversity management anymore. The science of management deals with policies and procedures. As a former Army captain, I was taught that you manage property, but lead people. Leadership deals with motivation and inspiration; inspire your work force to want to engage diverse individuals and ideas. If the current set of managers and boards of directors can’t instill that into the organization, the organization will not survive.

Two, be concerned about succession planning. Future leaders should not be carbon copies of current leaders. Why? The folks entering the work force tomorrow will be quite different than the leaders you see today. Companies often ask me if I can help bring in more diversity. But, what are you doing with the diversity you already have? Most times they are not effectively allocating and using the diversity they already have. If what you have isn’t being managed and leveraged properly, why would you want to bring in more to mismanage as well?

Three, an inclusive environment that values everyone and ensures success. With the talent shortage, people will go where they are respected and valued. It’s hard to imagine that in the middle of a recession, but the recession won’t last forever. Companies will be scrambling for talent.

A new Mercer survey reveal that organizations worldwide lack a strategy for developing women leaders. What are your thoughts on this? (
It has been a known fact for about a decade in the diversity community that most nations, companies, organization do not utilize their female work force at an optimum. Also, the nations that lag behind the developed nations the most, mistreat their women the most. For instance, in countries where women are not allowed to drive, to vote, or get an education — these countries are far less developed and not economically competitive. A few countries are surviving having such oppressive environments, but only because they have mass resources like oil, for instance. The world views them as more economic partners than a developed nations.

Here in the U.S., it is foolhardy for any company to not value its women. Women are the entrée to every niche market out there. Whether a company wants to reach a market of predominately African American, Latino, baby boomers — what have you — women are in all of those groups. Yes, men are in all those groups, but we are not under-utilizing the men in those groups. Women are, for the most part, making the purchasing decisions — over 85 percent . So, if women determine what gets bought, women determine what gets made.

Studies prove consistently that the higher number of women you have in senior management positions and corporate boards, the higher your profits, the higher the return on investments. Women are more likely to be whistle-blowers. They are more willing to point out the flaws in a strategic plan or organizational culture. Look at the financial crisis of recent years and the whistle-blowers tend to be women. The cultural norms are women are more likely to be more equitable and ethical.

Read the Mercer survey at

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