Thought Leaders Focus on Diversity in Final National Journal Dinner


Anna Cramer

Many questions revolve around the topic of workplace diversity, such as how it can be quantified by employers, and what exactly a diverse talent pool looks like. How can we tell if companies are truly doing enough to drive a diverse culture? This far reaching subject was recently examined at a dynamic event where AstraZeneca leaders hosted a conversation with experts on diversity in Washington, D.C.

This thought leader dinner was the final event of a series of four C-suite-level engagements taking place over the course of this year in partnership with the National Journal, a nationally recognized non-partisan publication. Laura Mably, Vice President, US Human Resources and Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs, led a group of experts and executives – including non-profit leaders, academia and other key stakeholders – in a discussion around diversity in the workplace: how companies can promote diversity and the challenges they face in this effort.

Participants agreed that there is no silver bullet when it comes to achieving a diverse workforce. The definition of diversity itself was debated and while there was agreement in actions and measures that organizations can take to recruit, retain and develop diverse talent, there was also consensus that as a country, we have a long way to go.

Many interesting themes arose during a lively discussion around the role of leadership in achieving a diverse workforce. This proved to be a controversial topic and spurred many sides of a debate, one side arguing that management and senior leaders must be the ones to begin a diversity and inclusion strategy from the top down – modeling the right behaviors, engaging with their direct reports and creating the platforms for the future. Whereas opposing viewpoints stressed the importance of building a diverse and inclusive culture from the bottom up, allowing an organic culture to grow and finding actions and measures which will outlast any one particular leader.

The discussion touched on the pipeline gap in North America and how difficult succession planning can be for diverse talent. This opened a wider discussion about cultivating diversity out into our world beyond the workplace. All participants were in agreement that until we achieve diversity in our personal lives – in schools, churches, playgrounds – we can’t achieve diversity where we work.

At the end of the evening, however, there was a shared energy and optimism around the table about how companies and leaders can hold each other accountable for making true culture change in the years to come.

The dinner was part of a series of events coordinated by National Journal LIVE, a premier events business that convenes top leaders in the Washington, D.C. area to discuss possible solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.