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As some companies back away from DEI commitments, others double down

After the murder of George Floyd and the racial reckoning that followed, commitments from corporate America and businesses large and small followed.


They pledged to initiate aggressive efforts to acknowledge their long-overdue commitments to Black and brown employees and to advance diversity, equity and inclusion both internally and externally.


However, a number of those businesses have quietly backed away from their earlier promises  to make significant changes and even cut their fledgling DEI programs.


CNBC recently reported that Google has backed away from key programs aimed at improving diverse hiring, retention and promotion practices, and increasing underrepresented groups in leadership roles to more than double Black representation in non-senior positions by 2025. According to CNBC, Google laid off leaders from employee resource groups focused on racial diversity.


CNBC also reported on similar pullbacks from other tech firms, citing data from job tracking site which found that that diversity-related job postings dropped 44% year-over-year.


At the same time, some corporate citizens have continued to strengthen their DEI commitments.


Locally, Delta Dental of Minnesota recently promoted longtime top Human Resources leader Kathie Eiland-Madison to a new C-level position. She has been elevated to the organization’s very first Chief Community Engagement and Inclusion Officer.


“I’ve talked to peers whose jobs are being eliminated or cut but we have upped the ante,” she said. “Now my sole focus is on this work. Our leadership looks at this as a strategic imperative.”


While Delta Dental of Minnesota has made continual strides in its DEI efforts, Eiland-Madison and the leadership team she is part of regard their efforts as ongoing.


“In business you don’t hit your financial goals or sales goals and then say, our work is done. We look at (the DEI work)  as evolutionary. It’s not a project or an event, it’s intentionally woven into the work that we do every day.”


Eiland-Madison said her DEI strategic plan involves partnering with nonprofits in the community committed to social change.


She and some of her team members recently spent the day at the Tony Sanneh Foundation in St Paul. They joined the partner organization in distributing hundreds of toys and holiday food packages for under-served families.


She said that another key initiative is not only recruiting employees of color but also implementing retention strategies that will keep them employed and satisfied with their jobs.


“We not only want them to stay, but we want them to be engaged. We set up engagement interviews and check in with them about what’s working and what’s not. We invite them to events and to join us in reaching out to the communities we serve,” she said. “People will stay because of our culture.”


Eiland-Madison has a long local history embedded in local diversity circles. Her father was the first Black vice president of Human Resources at General Mills.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Eiland-Madison made a name for herself as a trailblazing basketball player; she played in the first girl’s state basketball tournaments and was one of the first African-American women to receive an athletic scholarship from the University of Minnesota to play on the Gopher women’s team.


Eiland-Madison encourages other companies to follow suit and invest in diversity strategies.


“It has to start with the leadership driving the work but it has to get beyond the buzzwords,” she said. “What are we actually doing and what is our intentionality. When you have that your employees will see it.”


















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