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What Are Barriers to Inclusive Leadership? New Initiative to Effect Change
Ohio Ag Connection - 03/17/2021

Deloitte and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School announced a new research initiative with the goal of advancing inclusive leadership within organizations. Through the collaboration, Deloitte and Wharton hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of effective sponsorship and mentorship of minorities, or Persons Excluded due to Ethnicity or Race (PEER), and use the research to enable Deloitte professionals, other organizations and Wharton students to become more inclusive leaders.

"To truly be a diverse and inclusive workplace, organizations need to create an environment where all employees are supported, engaged and, ultimately, able to succeed without compromising their individualism and authenticity," said Dan Helfrich, chairman and chief executive officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Inclusive leaders set the tone for that type of workplace and through this initiative we hope to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within our own organization and the broader business community."

Erika James, dean of the Wharton School and a leading expert on workplace diversity and management strategy, is a dedicated advocate of inclusive leadership. "We are so grateful for Deloitte's support and collaboration on this vitally important work," said Dean James. "Together, we have an incredible opportunity to help organizations become more inclusive. What better way to do that than producing insights and empowering people to put them to work. While leaders need these solutions right now, our students are hungry for the knowledge that will help them 'be the change' in the sectors they choose for their future careers. They all want a blueprint. We want to provide it."

Building on previous research conducted by Wharton Professor Stephanie Creary, which suggests that leaders may provide their racial minority direct reports with qualitatively different types of support, the initiative includes a set of new research, consisting of surveys of managers from racial minority and majority groups and a field experiment to test actions managers can take to improve team inclusiveness.

Based on the research findings, Wharton's McNulty Leadership Program (MLP) will deliver a series of workshops annually tailored to Wharton's undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA communities. The MLP will also work with Wharton faculty and staff leadership to support the proper instruction and placement of this content in its other programs.

As a professor who teaches and works closely with tomorrow's business leaders, Creary is keenly aware of the aspirations of the future workforce. "Students are extremely passionate about working in an environment that promotes the tenets of diversity, equity and inclusion and this passion serves as a source of inspiration for my research," she said. "The research that this initiative will support will inform the work necessary to transform organizations to meet the changing values and expectations for work culture."

"Through this initiative, we want to effect meaningful change by providing research-backed tools for leaders -- and future leaders -- to support the success and advancement of all professionals, especially PEER," said Kwasi Mitchell, diversity and inclusion leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Inclusion and diversity are central to Deloitte's values and embedded in our culture as a core competency for leadership. We became the first professional services organization to establish a women's initiative and diversity initiative. Throughout our more than 25 year history, we have piloted and launched innovative programs, cultivated mentorship/sponsorship opportunities, and hosted meaningful dialogues for our people to share their ideas for how we can continue to advance inclusion.

Deloitte's "Equity Imperative" report includes a definition of key terms that can help shift behaviors and value in order to advance equity in organizations. PEER is one of those key terms used to unite people who have been historically oppressed without insinuating that those individuals are less than or that their sole identity is one of exclusion or oppression (includes people who identify as Black, Latinx, and people indigenous to the United States and its territories). This term shifts the focus to the acts of exclusion and oppression while enabling individuals to disentangle their identity from it.

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