Glenn Llopis, Contributor
It’s time for corporations to start changing the conversation about diversity. It’s not enough to just talk about how to get more representation of women and minority groups in the C-suite. Businesses need to be talking about why they need the leadership of these underrepresented groups that are today’s new super-consumers and that are redefining brands from the bottom-up.
“Minority” groups will represent 54% of America’s population in less than 30 years, yet America’s corporations are still uncomfortable with the changing face of this country. Corporations need to educate themselves more about the new consumer groups they must serve in order for their brands to stay relevant. Right now, corporations are dividing the United States by segmenting consumers, and focusing more on free market enterprise instead of cultural unification. That’s why diversity has become a term that is dividing this nation, because the “elite classes” in government and business view diversity and all that it’s become associated with as an inconvenient but necessary evil.
America has always been known as a melting pot. But we force foreign-born immigrants who come to America for a better life to assimilate to an American way of thinking that has recently been centered on greed, distrust, and selfishness. This mindset has proven to be unsustainable, but America’s corporations continue to fight off the competitive threats posed by the changing face of our country, instead of accepting the fact that this is the new America; their new super-consumers.
This kind of marginalization of new voices by default supports tokenism and quota systems, instead of truly embracing diversity from the bottom up. We’ve seen a few examples recently of what can happen under that old paradigm – ESPN’s treatment of Jeremy Lin, a Chick-Fil-A employee’s treatment of customers, and an Obama campaign manager’s insensitive tweet. This paradigm must shift in order to embrace the cultural values that both executives and consumers bring to the table. Such values can serve to unite America and allow its people to celebrate what they stand for outwardly, rather than forcing the country’s new faces to communicate only amongst their own. Isolating and excluding new voices disrupts innovation and shuts down new opportunities.
Let’s face it, the growing influence of women and minorities as super-consumers is changing the way brands market and communicate to them. Unfortunately, most companies are missing the mark – and especially missing it badly with Hispanic audiences. This must change quickly. These miscalculations by corporations are not only generating unfavorable ROI, but they’re perpetuating stereotypes about women and minorities, thus impacting their ability to establish their authentic identities.
The lack of diversity in leadership roles is not just an issue of representation, and it’s not even just a business imperative anymore. It’s becoming a much broader economic and social development issue for America. As women and minorities rapidly grow their influence as the consumer segments that are driving the creation of new markets, new products, technological innovations, social media activities, and more, leading consumer brands are communicating ineffectively and are failing at earning trust as they strive to build relationships with these super-consumers. This failure is creating social and cultural divides rather than harmonious engagement that could potentially serve to cultivate greater humanity in a time when America is growing restless for positive social change.