Morgan Stanley, Marilyn Booker and the Exodus of Chief Diversity Officers

She Spent 16 Years as Morgan Stanley’s Diversity Chief. Now She’s Suing.

In her complaint, Marilyn Booker accuses the bank of preventing promotions of black employees and undermining her attempts to boost lending to African-Americans because of which black employees in the investment bank were systematically disadvantaged. Fired in December 2019, Marilyn Booker is a rare case of a high-ranking executive suing a Wall Street Bank for discrimination. 

This is one example of why change happens so slowly in the organizations that need it the most. The folks hired to be change agents are penalized for their constructive ideas and creativity. A lot of diversity professionals have been there ie in similar helpless or unappreciated or unrecognized or unacknowledged situations! Being a diversity officer can be difficult at some organizations, especially if systemic "isms" are deeply rooted in the culture.

In organizations such as these, The buck starts and stops at the top of the pyramid. The leadership at the helm of these organizations has an understanding of diversity that is minimal. Myopic, even. It would take really strong Chief Diversity Officers to not become mere instruments and preemptive tools of leadership or obliviate into becoming a tick box exercise for such behemoths to seem diverse to the outside world, while from the inside they still follow the old dictums of control and continue to dabble in the fine art of puppetry.

Many diversity initiatives fizzle out because they lack steam and buy-in from the leadership. Advocating Diversity and implementing it - It’s never been a path of least resistance.
A truly effective diversity initiative is comprehensive and integrated, with training or hiring people of color to reach the top of the pyramid or hiring a chief diversity officer or even trying to dismantle roadblocks for diverse talent to seamlessly progress into the leadership without systematic disadvantages heaped on them is just one component of a strategic plan ensuring that every decision taken within their organization is well informed and guided. 

Clearly, the challenges remain intact. Status QuoChange is trickling while it should be pouring. 

-Amit Anand