The Myth of the COVID-Transformed Workplace: How to Sustain Positive Initiatives

Sponsored by SAGE Publishing

Recorded on 09/08/2021
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 216

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s widespread Black Lives Matter protests, a slew of organizations released statements that promised new initiatives to address inequities within the workplace. Many announced new chief diversity officers, established DEI departments, or pledged to examine and report on hiring practices. But what’s the difference between effective transformation and window dressing? How do organizations make sure positive changes aren’t temporary?

In this second episode, our guests discuss how to sustain positive initiatives in the workplace introduced in response to the ongoing pandemic and global social movements. Hari Rajagopalan of Francis Marion University and Gwendolyn Combs of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln touch on the importance of top-level support and widespread adoption throughout an institution. Cynthia Clark of Bentley University highlights the need for DEI initiatives to receive substantive financial investment from employers. Last, Rhonda Sharpe of the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race speaks to the importance of defining DEI—what one organization means by diversity, equity, and inclusion can mean something entirely different at another.

About the guests:

Rhonda Sharpe
Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe is the founder and President of the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity and Race (WISER). She was named a Black Scholar You Should Know by and She is the co-editor of the Review of Black Political Economy and served as the past President of the National Economic Association. In 2020, she was selected to serve on the Center for American Progress National Advisory Council on Eliminating the Black-White Wealth Gap. Rhonda’s research focuses on three areas: gender and racial inequality, the diversity of STEM, and the demography of higher education. Her recent publications include: “Disaggregating data by race allows for more accurate research”; “Is the economics knowledge production function constrained by race in the USA?” (with GN Price); “We’ve to Build the Pipeline: What’s the Problem and What’s Next?”; “Who Attends For-Profit Institutions? The Enrollment Landscape” (with William (Sandy) Darity, Jr. and Steve Stokes); and “HBCUs: Creating a Scientific Workforce Outta 15 Cents.”

Her research has been featured on the PBS News Hour, in the New York Times, and on the Kerri Miller Show. She is a recurring guest on the BBC’s Business Matters. Rhonda serves on the boards of the International Association for Feminist Economists and Diversifying and Decolonising Economics. She is the co-founder (with Sandy Darity) of the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics (DITE), for which she served as the Associate Director from 2008 to 2014. She is the co-recipient of the 2004 Rhonda Williams Prize from the International Association for Feminist Economists. Rhonda completed her undergraduate studies in mathematics at North Carolina Wesleyan College and her doctorate in economics/mathematics at Claremont Graduate University.

Cynthia Clark
Professor, Management
Bentley University

Cynthia E. Clark serves as the director of the Harold S. Geneen Institute of Corporate Governance, an institute dedicated to bridging corporate governance research with practice. She has conducted numerous training sessions on ethical decision-making, activism and optimal nominating and governance procedures to boards of directors. Cynthia’s research interests concern ethics and governance issues in organizations, such as conflicts of interest, shareholder activism, privacy breaches and disclosing information, with a particular focus on how firms address them. Recently published work has appeared in Harvard Business ReviewStrategic Management JournalBusiness Ethics QuarterlyJournal of Business EthicsMIS QuarterlyOrganization & Environment and Business & Society. Cynthia serves on the editorial board of Business & Society.

Additionally, she is an active member and Governance Fellow with the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), the Society for Governance Professionals and 2020 Women on Boards. She has been widely cited in the media on governance issues including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, CNN, Fortune, Reuters and Bloomberg Radio. Prior to joining Bentley, Cynthia was a member of the faculty at Boston University, following a career in the banking and securities industry. She holds a PhD from the honors program at Boston University, a Master’s degree from Northwestern University and a B.A. from Boston College.

Gwendolyn Combs
Associate Professor of Management, College of Business
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Gwendolyn Marizett Combs serves the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in both faculty and administrative roles. Academically, she is an Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business. Administratively, she is the Director for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor; and Coordinates the work of the three UNL Chancellor’s Diversity Commissions (Commissions on the Status of People of Color, the Status of Women, and on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identities). Her scholarship has focused on the dynamics of human resource management, diversity, and inclusion practices on organizational outcomes and employee behaviors, and well being.

Combs teaches a variety of courses in human resources management and advises students interested in careers in that professional field. Her scholarly publications and conference presentations are framed more specifically within the areas of recruitment and selection, individual identity and inter-group behaviors, workplace equality, and organizational environments for diversity and inclusion. Additionally, she assists organizations in developing and integrating human resource programs/policy, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and diversity training.

Combs received her BA from Wellesley College, an MBA from Washington University (MO), and her doctoral degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Combs holds leadership roles in professional and service organizations including the Executive Board of the Diversity and Inclusion Theme Committee of the Academy of Management, Chair of the UNL African and African American Caucus, and member of the Institutional Research Committee of the National Board of Directors for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Hari K. Rajagopalan
Dean of the School of Business / Eugene A. Fallon Jr. Professor of Management
Francis Marion University

Dr. Rajagopalan teaches management science, operations management, and statistical model building and does research in location models, supply chain management and complex adaptive systems. His research has been published in academic journals such as Journal of Operations Research SocietyEuropean Journal of Operational ResearchComputers and Operations Research and Decision Support Systems. He is also an active participant in INFORMS: Decision Sciences Conference, European Working Group in Transportation Meeting, and Mini EURO Conference.

Enjoy the conversation? Listen to the rest of the series:

Check out our previous series with SAGE Publishing, Preparing Diverse Students for Success in the Academic and Private Sectors:

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