Resetting leadership and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion
Jorge Fontanez, CEO of B Lab US and Canada, and Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team, discussed resetting leadership and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Both spoke of the urgent need for businesses to be intentional about changing culture if they’re serious about ever embracing equity and diversity.
According to Halla, conformity is prevalent everywhere in modern-day leadership and none of us should be so accepting of the fact that there are more ‘Davids’ in corporate board rooms than women of colour. “The B Team was founded to confront that conformity in leadership and to do more than just business as usual,” said Halla. “We’re here to redefine and reset leadership. Our organisation is about trying to navigate towards a future where we can all live in an inclusive economy – where we enjoy a surge of wellbeing on a healthy planet. That’s our purpose in this world.”
Both Halla and Jorge agree that the current crisis of conformity is not being addressed quickly enough, and that we need disruption, fast. A core focus of The B Team’s agenda is its advocacy for gender balance and equitable representation in corporate boardrooms and C-suites. We must change who to change how, Halla often says. This is not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because diversity in leadership is a key driver of shifting norms and delivering better business performance.
Since joining B Lab, Jorge has centred racial equity at the heart of everything they do. “We have a vision to change the economic system, to have it be one that is inclusive, equitable, and regenerative. That is our mission of the future – it’s bold,” said Jorge. He is a strong advocate for leadership accountability in the workplace, for transparent goals and commitments, and for regular and consistent reporting.
“We need to reset leadership and make that commitment deeper than just ‘working on diversity and improving representation’. It’s not enough to get people in the room, what we need is to change the culture of organisations and the systems and business practices that have become the status quo. Those systems are stopping diverse leaders from actualising their own power,” said Jorge.
When Halla co-founded an Icelandic investment firm in 2007, she prioritised the incorporation of traditional “feminine” values into finance. Men in the industry laughed at her. The following year, a financial crisis befell Iceland – and Halla’s company survived. Suddenly, people started paying attention to the values that carried them through – and began embracing them, too.
This is an example of why, according to Halla, we cannot have conformity in leadership. “We need to close gaps in leadership because we cannot shift culture in an environment of sameness. The pipeline excuse is no longer an excuse. Humility is required in leadership, but this is not about self-negation. It’s about believing in new ways of being.”
Some progress has been made with regard to gender since 2020 – but not enough when it comes to race. Halla and Jorge both noted that talk of racial equity in CEO circles has quieted in recent months, with momentum being lost as people have shifted focus to other pressing issues. In response, The B Team has set a goal to successfully place 100 women of colour on corporate boards by 2025.
According to both, we need to keep a compass and stay the course. “We need to get rid of the scarcity mindset and people falsely believing that by being inclusive it will disadvantage others,” said Jorge. “It benefits everyone, and shifting the scarcity mindset is key.”
Visit the 100% Human at Work website and join the movement as they work to reset leadership and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the global business community.