2018 was an eventful year for diversity and inclusion, with many companies creating winning diversity strategies and others struggling to create a culture of inclusion. What diversity and inclusion trends can be expected for 2019? What developments are predicted for the upcoming year?
1. More executive apologies. In 2018, Starbucks, Papa John’s, H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s all experienced backlash and criticism based on advertisements, actions or statements of employees and executives of the company. In 2019, we are likely to see similar missteps, as companies figure out how to build an environment that is inclusive and equitable for both employees and customers. In 2019, companies should concentrate on diversity and inclusion training that focuses on behavior changes, unconscious bias, and media preparation for all employees. Organizations should also analyze their marketing and promotional materials, double and triple checking to ensure the materials are representative of diverse populations.
2. #MeToo after effects. While the #MeToo movement has increased awareness regarding workplace harassment, there has also been a lot of confusion regarding what is appropriate workplace behavior following the movement. One survey revealed that 51% of respondents believe that the focus on sexual harassment has made it harder for men to understand how to interact with women at work, with many men being hesitant to network, hold meetings, or have work dinners with female coworkers. This can have a direct impact on female progression in the workplace, as mentorship and networking is often an instrumental part of career advancement. In 2019, there will likely be more sexual harassment and prevention training being implemented into workplaces, so understanding what some of these unintended consequences are is imperative.
3. Diverse leadership. 2018 was a great year in terms of diverse representation. Companies like Netflix, M&T Bank and Uber all increased diverse leadership within their organizations. Research supports the value of diverse leadership for organizational performance and success. Representation does indeed matter, especially when it comes to executives. More diverse leadership representation is a good indication that companies are beginning to understand the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
4. Inclusive products. In 2019, companies will focus on inclusive marketing and advertising, as well as the creation of more inclusive products. In 2018, Microsoft announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is a specific controller designed for individuals with disabilities. Also in 2018, movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians experienced remarkable success, which many attributed to the celebration of diversity. Fenty Beauty, a cosmetic company created by singer Rihanna, has taken the beauty world by storm, earning $100 million in sales in their first 40 days of business. Customers raved about their 40 different shades of foundation, designed for customers across the spectrum including individuals who have albinism. Since the launching of Fenty Beauty, other brands like Cover Girl, Maybelline and Dior have mimicked Fenty Beauty’s strategy by expanding the range of their foundation colors to be more inclusive. This phenomenon has been dubbed as the Fenty Effect. Companies are beginning to grasp how advantageous diversity and inclusion is, and in 2019 we can expect to see more inclusive marketing, advertising and product design.
5. Celebrities speaking out. In 2019, we can expect to see more celebrities speaking out against exclusion, racism, and injustice. At the beginning of 2018, following the backlash surrounding the now-infamous H&M advertisement, musician The Weeknd announced that he was severing ties with the company because of the offensive advertisement, which many found to be racist. This year actress Anne Hathaway wrote a detailed Instagram post about Nia Wilson, a young Black teen who was murdered in Oakland, California. Hathaway used her platform to draw attention to the seeming lack of attention given to Wilson’s murder and also brought up racial disparities in how homicide victims are treated in American society. A few months ago, Ellen Pompeo also spoke out about the lack of representation in Hollywood and the dire need for people of color. In 2019, we can expect to see more celebrities speaking out against discrimination and exclusion, calling for more accountability when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
By Janice Gassam
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