U.S. equal employment opportunity
and affirmative action strategies
Author Malcolm Gladwell
uses the term “outlier” to
describe “the person who
doesn’t fit into our normal understanding of
highly successful people often happen to
be in the right place
at the right time,
are given access
to mentors, and
invest more than
10,000 hours in
learning and honing their skills. I
became an outlier.
I have invested
many more than
10,000 hours and
over a quarter century in learning
my trade. I guess
I can reasonably
call myself a diversity and inclusion
(D&I) subject matter expert. I can tell
you with great confidence that most company leaders
know what their business case is. And, despite their
assertions that their organizations are unique, the reasons why
they should focus on D&I are remarkably similar. They want to:
• Better reflect the markets the company serves.
• Foster innovation through diversity of thinking, which is
inextricably linked to demographic diversity.
• Find untapped sources of talent to
fill critical roles.
• Remain competitive.
• Succeed in lucrative
emerging markets domestically and around the
What I Learned
While facts and data
matter when developing a D&I strategy, support from the
chief executive officer
and the chief human
resources officer is
also crucial. A well-constructed business
a scorecard, accountability linked to compensation, and strategies
integrated into all appropriate business and people
practices—will be useless if
it is not embraced by senior
Other potential obstacles
• Analysis paralysis, which
occurs when no amount of data
seems to be enough to drive action.
It’s indicated by numerous requests for
more information or the same data sliced
and diced in endless combinations.
• When the diversity leader has limited or no access to the executive team.
• HR leaders and hiring managers not being held accountable.
• Little time for D&I on meeting agendas of HR teams, senior
leaders or board members.
• D&I topics missing from annual reports.
• Diversity initiative leaders with little experience or training.
Eliminating these barriers will bring you closer to achieving the
benefits of D&I that you say you want. Ideally, you and your leaders will commit to regularly scrutinizing leading and lagging D&I
indicators and continually finding ways to improve.
I found my calling when I embraced my inner outlier and
became a diversity leader, which is why I include this Mark Twain
quote at the bottom of all my e-mails: “The two most important
days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find
Deborah Dagit is president of Deb Dagit Diversity LLC, a diversity
consultancy in Washington, N.J., and former chief diversity officer at
Merck & Co.
‘At age 32, I was
new: the power and
privilege that comes
with a title, hierarchy, a
authority and a staff.’