Diversity

Walking the Walk on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Building more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces is a growing priority in corporate boardrooms, but actual progress has not kept pace with increased awareness. Even highly motivated companies with the best intentions often struggle on how to walk the walk.

In an effort to move the needle, NJBIA has partnered with the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey on a strategy to help committed companies put plans into action. Our mission is to drive diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in workforce development and employment advancement, corporate boards, procurement in various industries, and community impact. We plan to do this through a voluntary CEO Pledge, best practice sharing, and training.

Michele Siekerka

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA)

The CEO Pledge is more than just talking the talk. It will produce results by creating an independent accountability system in which companies confidentially agree to share their progress on concrete metrics, which will be collectively tracked. By monitoring progress, and sharing programs and best practices, companies can also inspire other businesses to make their workforces and leadership more reflective of their customers and communities. 

CEOs know that a DEI workforce is not just about doing what is right, it is also about setting up their companies for success. Research shows that diverse companies attract the most qualified employees, foster greater innovation and outperform competitors. 

Having DEI embedded in company culture is incredibly important in recruiting and retaining top talent. Surveys show that 67% of jobseekers view a company’s diversity as one of the main factors they consider. Breaking down the data, diversity is even more important to Black (89%), Asian (80%) and Latinx (70%) applicants. 

Companies that value DEI are also more successful. A 2018 study by the Harvard Business Review found that the most diverse companies were also the most innovative and were able to market a greater range of products to consumers. In fact, companies that are more diverse earned 19% more in innovation revenues. 

When launched, the CEO Pledge will represent the culmination of ongoing discussions between our two organizations that began last July when we hosted an executive roundtable focused on increasing diversity in all levels of the workforce, procurement and the supply chain. More than 70 New Jersey businesses and organizations took part in this event and continue to engage in our ongoing executive roundtable meetings. 

Building on that momentum, NJBIA and its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council organized a two-day summit in the spring that drew more than 140 participants for a robust exchange of ideas on how to create more diverse and inclusive workforces, as well as help lift up minority-owned businesses, especially those in disadvantaged communities hit hardest by the pandemic. 

The “Stronger Together” summit showed us there are many New Jersey businesses and thought leaders who want to address inequity in the workplace and build a more inclusive corporate culture that incorporates the true principles of DEI. We believe the CEO Pledge can be a catalyst for getting more businesses on the path to action and accountability.  

Both NJBIA and the AACCNJ have already recruited businesses of all sizes to be part of this important initiative, and we welcome many more. If you would like to learn more about the CEO Pledge and our collective actions, please contact NJBIA’s Chief Member Strategy Officer Betty Boros at bboros@njbia.org. We would love to have you on the team!

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