The Value of Diversity: Leadership and Organizational Commitment

The Diversity Value Index (DVI), the Human Capital Media Group’s benchmarking program, has five dimensions. This special report will discuss the third one, leadership and organizational commitment. To fully realize diversity and inclusion’s (D&I) value, an organization’s leadership and workforce must be committed to driving and executing a D&I strategy that results in measurable organizational value.

While it is important that D&I strategy be in harmony with an organization’s core mission and values, it is equally important that leadership actively supports the diversity strategy and its implementation. The DVI judges were instructed to assess whether an organization’s leadership support was cross-functional in the areas of recognition, ownership, communication and teamwork. They were asked to assess the extent to which leadership endorsed and actively participated in D&I programs.

Judges also were asked to examine whether D&I key performance indicators were integrated into performance management, compensation, bonuses or promotions. Taken together, these elements create accountability for leaders to achieve diversity strategy.

Finally, judges were asked to examine any evidence that leadership leads cultural change within the organization. To this end, they looked for evidence that an organization’s leadership did more than pay lip service to diversity and inclusion, that they understood the value of diversity efforts and were active champions for cultural change.

Previous Diversity Executives issues spotlighted other DVI pillars. The March/April issue focused on mission and values, the May/June issue spotlighted strategy and execution, and finally, the September/October issue will highlight diversity and inclusion measurement.

For more information on the Diversity Value Index, visit here.

—Sarah Kimmel, director of research and advisory services, Human Capital Media Group

Northern Trust Is All in on Diversity and Inclusion
At Northern Trust, fostering a globally inclusive workforce is a leadership strength that keeps employees engaged. It also helps the financial institution advocate for the communities in which it does business.

Diversity powers innovation, according to executives at Northern Trust Corp., the Chicago-based wealth management bank with roughly $810.2 billion in assets under management.

The senior leadership team believes that by fostering an inclusive environment, the company can elevate employee engagement, enabling the workforce to heighten its contribution. The bank’s executives say this collective mix of attributes serves as a catalyst for continuous improvement through diversity of thought, ability and perspective.

Northern Trust has two chief diversity officers, Deidra Jenkins and Pamela Hutchinson, each in charge of different regions throughout the world. Both report to Connie Lindsey, executive vice president and head of corporate social responsibility for Northern Trust, who reports to the bank’s chairman and CEO, Frederick H. Waddell.

Lindsey said this reporting structure was built to enhance the organization’s leadership engagement and to ensure that the CEO and his executive management team are held accountable for making diversity a priority. This is primarily done through global diversity and inclusion scorecards, which cover the business case for diversity, culture of accountability, talent acquisition, talent development and management, globalization and supplier diversity.

Each member of the executive management team acts as a sponsor for one of the bank’s 10 employee resource groups (ERGs). The sponsor is responsible for promoting the ERG as an organizational resource and provides direction, access to resources and helps the bank’s ERG board align programming and events with its overall business goals. Executive sponsors also participate in quarterly ERG meetings and speak at events.

“As long-standing core values, diversity and inclusion are invaluable to Northern Trust’s business success,” Lindsey said. “Diversity and inclusion is one of our core competencies that reflect our enduring principles of service, expertise and integrity.”

To ensure the bank’s diversity strategy is aligned with its business strategy, the diversity team presents an annual update to the board of directors. The board’s compensation committee then evaluates performance on diversity and inclusion initiatives when determining executive compensation.

The company has an annual Chairman’s Diversity Advocate Award Program to recognize partners who champion and make contributions to the company’s diversity efforts. The event highlights the bank’s commitment to making diversity and inclusion a part of the employee experience.

“It is important that we not only attract a diverse group of employees,” Lindsey said, “but that we provide them career opportunities, real authority within their span of control, and the support to grow and develop.”

Connie L. Lindsey, executive vice president and head of corporate social responsibility, Northern Trust Corp.

North Shore-LIJ Health System: Transforming Health Care Through Diversity
Embracing diverse patient cultures is a critical component of North Shore-LIJ Health System’s mission.

According to, a parenting website, women in Jordan typically avoid cold foods and drinks after giving birth because of traditional beliefs.

North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York City takes such cultural sensitivities into consideration with its patients. According to Jennifer H. Mieres, the health system’s senior vice president of the office of community and public health and chief diversity and inclusion officer, being insensitive to the cultural and religious needs of women during pregnancy denies them access to feeling whole. “Understanding medicine, the delivery of health care from a holistic point of view, incorporating culture and religion, making people feel truly engaged, comfortable and respected, is truly an imperative for us health care professionals and is more than a nice-to-do in this business,” she said.

Mieres, a cardiologist by training, was brought on from New York University Langone Medical Center in July 2010 as the company’s first chief diversity officer. Her goal: to provide a strategic vision and leadership on diversity and inclusion activities for the health system’s 16 hospitals and facilities.

North Shore-LIJ Health System is the largest integrated health system in New York based on patient revenue, according to IMS Health, a health care research and technology company. It is also the second-largest nonprofit secular health care system in the U.S. based on number of beds.

An executive diversity council chaired by the health system’s CEO, Michael Dowling, helps the organization fulfill its mission. The council’s 10 members — all top executives — meet quarterly; Mieres meets with each member individually on an ongoing basis.

Among its activities, the council selects the sponsors for the organization’s employee resource groups (ERGs) from a pool of LIJ leaders. Sponsors and ERGs report their programs, activities and metrics of success to the council biannually.

“If we’re going to focus on a particular community, increase our market share in that area, we need to work with Jennifer so she can help us understand the cultural needs of that community,” said Joseph Cabral, LIJ’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “Jennifer’s role is to make sure that we’re properly aligned and understand what we’re getting ourselves into before we jump into those situations.”

Council members constantly work to ensure they meet diversity objectives with employees and customers in mind. Cabral said more than half of the system’s employee population falls into one equal employment opportunity category in addition to Caucasian. Members also look at other companies to create new programs to better engage staff.

“If your senior leadership is not engaged — not only involved, but engaged — then you will not get any traction on the front-line level,” Cabral said. “Their active participation is critical to our success as an organization.”

Jennifer H. Mieres, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, North Shore-LIJ Health System.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation: A Commitment to Equality
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s leaders work to discredit the notion that good intentions and financial resources alone can bring social change. A shift in attitudes and behaviors makes the biggest impact.

For the past three years, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), an organization dedicated to helping children and communities in need, has hosted a four-day conference with leaders, community-based organizations and civil rights groups to discuss how the organization can eliminate barriers for opportunity in underdeveloped communities.

Attending the event is a priority for the foundation’s senior leaders. Gail Christopher, the organization’s vice president of program strategy, said there’s an urgency to present a complete narrative on race and to tell positive stories of how people can work together to improve lives.

“Leadership’s intent is to not only model the results and behaviors we aspire to, but to infuse the responsibility for diversity, inclusion and equity work throughout the organization, challenging and empowering all of us to provide leadership for this critical work within our own spheres of influence, both internally and externally,” said Deborah A. Green, human resources analyst, WKKF.

The foundation’s mission is to direct grants and resources to help remove systematic barriers that hold some children back. Dianna L. Langenburg, director of human resources and organizational services for WKKF, said the foundation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is meaningful to its partners, and the company invests in organizations on a local and national level whose programs aim to foster equality.

The foundation is governed by a board of independent trustees. The board in turn supports diversity by making sure extended grants include a racial equality component. The board also ensures that senior leaders are participating in diversity learning programs for self-awareness and general employee development — programs the board also takes part in.

Further, senior leaders are paired with coaches, and racial equality strategies are linked to individual performance goals. All employees are expected to have at least one performance or learning goal related to racial equality. These goals are assessed annually through performance reviews, which are tied to merit increases.

The foundation’s president and CEO, Sterling Speirn, is the co-chairman of the D5 Coalition, which aims to grow diversity in philanthropy. Foundation leaders also participate in a Peer Action Learning Network led by the Council of Michigan Foundations. This 11-month engagement series is designed to strengthen an organization’s ability to embrace diverse and inclusive management and grant making.

“Diversity work is a passion of our leaders and a significant part of their personal accomplishments,” Green said. “… They see leading difficult inclusion conversations with their teams as part of their job.”

From left to right: Joanne Krell, vice president for communications; James McHale, vice president of program strategy; Gail Christopher, vice president of program strategy; Sterling Speirn, president and CEO; Joel Wittenberg, vice president and chief investment officer; Carla Thompson, vice president of program strategy; and La June Montgomery Tabron, executive vice president for operations and treasurer.