Dee C. Marshall works to bring diversity to the American company.
Source: Dee C. Marshall
When Dee C. Marshall was working on Wall Street, she was often the only black woman in the room.
These days she’s trying to make the American company more diverse. She has noticed a marked change in attitudes following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last May.
“Before May 25, diversity died,” said Marshall, CEO of Diverse & Engaged, a Newark, New Jersey-based diversity research program that works with Fortune 100 companies.
“We weren’t allowed to talk about being black outside of black staff’s resource groups.”
Now she sees renewed commitment to the cause, as evidenced by new job titles such as the head of civil rights or the chief diversity officer.
“Things are changing, but it will take time.”
Marshall, who is over 40 years old, was raised by a single mother in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She worked right after high school, before going to college, and then did her Masters.
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She spent her time on Wall Street in training and leadership development for a variety of companies including Merrill Lynch. But the day after the 9/11 terrorist attack was a defining moment.
“I’ve decided to pursue my purpose in life,” recalls Marshall. “I didn’t want to go back to work as usual.”
She continued to work full-time for the next few years to pay the bills before she was able to start her own business with Diverse & Engaged. She is now being commissioned by companies to carry out her diversity training and leadership development.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, black workers hold only about 3% of senior or managerial positions in Fortune 500 companies. There will only be three black CEOs once Merck CEO Ken Frazier resigns in late June. This includes a black woman, Rosalind Brewer, who will take the helm of the Walgreens Boots Alliance in March.
Marshall believes businesses need to focus on two areas.
One of them is changing the work culture and increasing the diversity of representation within the ranks. This includes not only hiring more black workers and salespeople, but also paying black men and women the same way as white men. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s 2019 State of Working America Wages, black workers earn an average of 75.6% of white wages.
Businesses also need to focus on specific demographics like black, Asian, Native American and disabled workers, Marshall said.
“Allow each different dimension to have their own space and not just be BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color]. “
Second, systemic racism must be reduced. This should be done in a company’s policies, performance review process, and board hiring, she said.
“Focus on leading and managing from a multicultural perspective,” advised Marshall.
She also encourages black employees to talk about their work environment.
“Look around the room,” she said. “If there isn’t diversity there, have your vote.
“Speak for the world you want to live in.”
– Reuters contributed to this report.
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