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#ChamberBreakers: Case study: How D&I affects your bottom line

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Opportunities abound in today’s world for corporate heads to tackle diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their companies and effect powerful change in society, but often it means changing their own mindsets first. These shifts can pay great dividends for their people and the business.

For its third season, the #ChamberBreakers podcast series is unpacking capitalism to see what needs fixing and what we can do as businesses to pave a more equitable future for all.

In this episode, Lianna Brinded, director at Yahoo, and Xavier White, CSR and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, speak to David Kenny, chief executive officer of Nielsen (NLSN), the global marketing research giant with 15,000 employees across 100 countries.

Kenny took on the role of chief diversity officer for a time to “make sure it was on the board agenda, that it was in every meeting, and that people knew that I was judging myself and them by our inclusion impact as much as our financial impact”.

“What I remind myself and my fellow CEOs on this journey is that there's a lot of power that comes with this job and you've got to share it,” he says. “I think that humility, vulnerability and being willing to share power and let go of it in order to learn is super important in leadership.”

Leaders should not presume they have all the answers, adds Kenny. The best way for him to create change was to “give my power to others and listen to them”.

Read more: #ChamberBreakers: Can robots and AI be racist?

Nielsen has established a Diverse Leadership Network to help people from different backgrounds and experiences learn new aspects of the business — not just to boost their professional growth but also to allow them to be noticed for future management positions.

Kenny describes it as “kind of a mini MBA to level the playing field and give people broader exposure,” and an “awesome step forward in equity”.

Measuring company D&I is complex, according to Kenny. It needs to go much deeper than just representation and drill down into how respected and understood people feel at work, and whether they are doing better work as a result.

“To be clear, I'm not doing this just because it's a good thing to do, I'm doing it so Nielsen wins,” Kenny says. “I think in order to win, I've got to get full potential out of every asset, and the most important [asset] is every person… It is as important as the financial results to measure our success.”

Read more: #ChamberBreakers: Healthcare’s sexism problem

For Kenny, capitalism and democracy go hand-in-hand, which is why Nielsen filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court, when it was considering including a citizenship question in the US census.

“That question would have suppressed the response rate from certain households, particularly Hispanic households. And if that was wrong, all the business decisions that are based on the census — where to build hospitals, where to put schools, where to build stores, the ratings of media — would be biased by under-counting a population.”

Nielsen felt it was important to make an economic and business argument in this case. The Supreme Court decided that the citizenship question did not belong in the census.

“We showed that business needs to step up when a policy decision is going to affect business,” he says. “Right now, I'm one of many, I think it's 700 CEOs, that are speaking out in terms of voting rights in America… We need to make sure everybody counts.”

The six-part video series is also a podcast and is out every Monday.

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