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Why the Oscars’ Diversity Issue Matters to All Employers
Posted 02.29.16
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Jonathan A. Segal
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I am pleased to share my latest post to the SHRM blog.

Last night was the 88th broadcast of Academy Awards. And, even if you didn’t watch it, then you know that not one person of color was nominated for an Oscar in the categories of best actor or actress in either a primary or supporting role.

The host was Chris Rock. And, with humor and perspective, he nailed it…effectively by reframing it.

The absence of award nominations for actors of color was less about the nominations themselves and more about the absence of acting opportunities for actors of color. If you don’t have access to the opportunities, then it goes without saying you cannot win.

To quote Chris Rock:

“What I’m trying to say is it’s not about boycotting or anything. It’s just we want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. And not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. All these guys get great parts all the time. But what about the black actors?”

Rock’s comments apply not only to black actors but also to Asian American and Hispanic American actors. Why are there not more roles for actors who are Asian American or Hispanic American?

Now, you may be tempted to say: who cares about Hollywood! Avoid that temptation; access issues are not limited to the entertainment industry.

Outside of Hollywood, we see a glaring absence of diversity in many senior leadership teams. And, there also is a clear gender pay gap in many organizations, even if people debate the degree of the gap.

I would suggest that, in many situations, what we see is the symptom of the underlying problem: the absence of meaningful access to assignments and opportunities that create the credentials for promotions and higher pay. How do we address the access problem?

Well, that goes beyond the scope of this brief blog. But the first step is acknowledging the root of the problem so that we can focus our corrective action there.

Yes, this is about fairness. Fairness always matters.

But there also is the business imperative. Diverse leadership teams are more successful, and you cannot get to the top unless you have had equal opportunity to access along the way.

Last night, Chris Rock rocked it with his root cause analysis. The success of our own organizations will depend, in part, on how we respond to the clarion call to focus on equal access opportunity.

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About Jonathan A. Segal
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Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .