The Surge in Corporate Diversity Initiatives – Real and Longstanding, or a “Flash in the Pan?”

Is this really the origin of “Flash in the Pan?” Check down at the end of the blog.

Check at the bottom of this blog for the meaning and derivation of “flash in the pan”

It’s now been about a year since the COVID pandemic started and nine months since George Floyd’s death. Now let’s look back and look ahead.

In late April of 2020, when we entered into the second month of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I wrote a blog asking “Will corporate diversity initiatives go down the tubes during and after the pandemic?” I shared the fear that diversity initiatives would be set back decades as every diversity training session I was scheduled to lead and all my diversity consulting gigs got cancelled. I even had one client cancel a series that was already scheduled be done remotely via the web.

I also shared the concern that the stoppage may not be temporary, as when things started picking up again and budgets needed to be cut, that diversity, equity and inclusion work would be one of the first items trimmed or eliminated. I was basically resigned to it being a very poor year business wise.

George Floyd’s killing led to worldwide “Black Lives Matter” rallies including this one in Brussels.

And then George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was chocked to death by police in Minneapolis. As the same time, other murders of black and brown people such as Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor came into public view, and since that time, additional unjustified killings of people of color have come to light. This led to a quick renewal of the Black Lives Matter movement, and protests in dozens of cities across the country and even across the world.

Then all of a sudden, the diversity topic that had been shoved under the carpet was now out again in full force, with most corporations and non-profits knowing that they had to take a stand. And the stand had to go beyond just making some kind of nice public statement, but truly addressing issues of racism, sexism, homophobia and more impacting organizations. Corporate leaders once again began to understand the compelling business rationale for a well-funded diversity strategy leading to impactful action. And business-wise, I have been busier than ever!

It is both sad and great that these awful events across our country lit a fire under organizational leaders. But now the main questions are:
• Will these efforts lead to real systemic change with metrics and measurements showing that real progress is being made?
• Will these efforts now be ongoing, or will things slowly simmer down and die, or be cut the next time an organization has a little financial blip and needs to cut something to increase profit?

Hopefully, the answer is that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts will now be long-term and driving real systemic change in businesses and non-profits, and hopefully having lasting positive impact on society as whole.

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“Flash in the Pan” means a sudden spasmodic effort that accomplishes nothing.  The origin? Flintlock muskets used to have small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder flared up without the bullet being fired was ‘a flash in the pan‘. The term has been used since the late 17th century.

Blog author Stan Kimer is a diversity consultant and trainer who handles all areas of workplace diversity and with a deep expertise in LGBTQ+ diversity strategy and training, Unconscious Bias and Employee Resource Groups.  Please explore the rest of my website and never hesitate to contact me to discuss diversity strategy consulting or training for your organization to help assure your diversity efforts are not a “flash in the pan,” or pass my name onto your HR department. [email protected]EngagementConsulting.com