Normalizing Corporate Accountability: Thoughts from someone new to the corporate world

Progress Ime

June 13, 2021

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It's easy to say one thing and yet have our actions or lack of action reflect just how little weight our words carry. Right now it's easy for corporations to side with diversity, inclusion, and belongingness; they're trending. More than ever companies are mindful of their newly acclaimed, publicized stances. COVID has stunted business growth for long enough, therefore, the right statement is an imperative part of attracting more business. So while it is likely that refusal to publicize an appropriate response can result in corporations becoming indefinitely cancelled, it also calls into question the authenticity of their words. Is it all for show?

When corporations aren't held accountable

Corporate Accountability is not commonly discussed and yet for the overall betterment of current and future work environments it is something we need to normalize. As uncomfortable as it may be to admit to past errors, uncomfortability and inconvenience can not deter companies from taking a look within. Companies must not only engage in these conversations but they should be the ones initiating the conversation.

Talk must be followed by reformed action and acknowledgement of past wrongs. Corporate Accountability is defined as holding corporations responsible for their treatment of company employees and the surrounding community. Financial gain is not the focus. However, many companies often engage in various actions in hope of obtaining more financial leverage in their community. Accountability is not pretty. It requires acknowledgement of past faults with the promise of corrected behavior that is not always immediate. Fast change often places a blanket over actions that should not be forgotten. So rather, as companies strive towards complete employee equality regardless of employee race, gender, sexuality, and age, past faults should serve as reminders of just how far corporations have come in their journey of unlearning the problem with systemic bias.

Real change takes time.

After attending two of the three No More Talk: Holding Businesses Accountable WITI-hosted Clubhouse conversations, I couldn't help but wonder if the right people were in the room. While the men and women present for the conversations are more than qualified for discussions of this nature and I was extremely grateful to hear their insight on this topic, I couldn't shake the notion of hoping someone with the power to elicit necessary change was present. I wonder if that was felt by others in the room and if more people used these conversations as a chance to really listen rather than the more satisfying alternative-being heard.

It's imperative that we let go of the idea that institutionalized practices, embedded in the fabric of companies, can be corrected by the release of a few executive orders and public statements. No one should expect overnight change and quick change is likely to do more damage than good. Inclusivity, diversity, belongingness — these terms are not a fad. Work bias is not something new or foriegn, and actions taken by companies should not be for mere appeasement. Corporate accountability is not something I am forced to think about on the daily or even question, yet in May 2021 my former university was in the news for the discovery of its namesake being a slave trader. When news of this magnitude is released it calls into question the company's stance on issues that affect minorities within the corporation and surrounding community. Upon hearing the news the university president responded with these three simple words �"The truth hurts”. The truth can hurt but it must also be boldly faced. Corporations have infinite amounts of power and influence and must be held accountable; our future depends on it.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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