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How Can Leaders Embody Inclusiveness?

By Melissa J. Anderson

Earlier this summer, the Boy Scouts of America ignited a firestorm of controversy after announcing a secret 11-member internal council had decided that openly gay scouts and troop leaders would not be welcome within the 102 year-old institution.

Two of the group’s board-members, Ernst & Young CEO Jim Turley and AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson, both spoke out against the policy and announced they would work to turn the decision around internally.

The response by National President Wayne Perry and Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca was clear – they don’t expect change anytime soon. The Huffington Post reported:

“The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of our board members and are thankful for their leadership,” the statement said. “While we have supporters and board members with different viewpoints on this issue, and who may choose a different direction for their organizations, we believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together.”

The statement says a lot about how the BSA leadership sees the situation: an abstract conflict of ideas, one over which people are invited to politely agree to disagree. What they don’t grasp is the real affect it has on the organization’s membership. They are, in essence, telling boys across the country that not only is being gay not okay, but inclusion is not a core value of the group. While even the military has put an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Boy Scouts has new implemented its own insidious brand of the policy.

But the involvement of Turley and Stephenson has brought another issue to light – how can (or should) leaders embody the values of their organizations outside the corporate space?

Leaders as Change Agents

If a senior leader seeks to be an agent of change within their company, how important and visible are their actions within the company?

Turley, whose firm Ernst & Young has consistently received a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Index, gave a statement following the BSA’s policy announcement that he hoped to change the organization’s stance on inclusion. GLAAD reported:

“My experience has led me to believe that an inclusive environment is important throughout our society and I am proud to be a leader on this issue. I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse. As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”

By coming out strong on this issue, Turley is living up to his values. But is it enough to simply release a statement about the potential for change? What else can leaders do to show their devotion to inclusion?

Corporate Philanthropy

While making statements is one thing, one way to measure support for inclusion is to see where companies dedicate their dollars. Recently, Intel said it would no longer fund the BSA because of its discriminatory policy. Previously, the organization had donated up to $700,000 per year to individual Boy Scout troops and Councils based on an employee volunteer matching program.

Intel Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell told ThinkProgress:

“In an effort to recognize our employees commitment to the communities we call home, Intel expanded its volunteer matching grants program in 2009.  Through it, Intel matches the amount of time employees’ volunteer with non-profits with dollars from the Intel Foundation. Due to significant growth in the number of organizations funded, earlier this year we revisited our policies associated with the program, and applied new rigor that requires any organization to confirm that it adheres to Intel’s anti-discrimination policy in order to receive funding.”

Intel can still provide funds to individual troops, but only those that have disavowed the BSA’s discriminatory national policy. The Boy Scouts is a popular organization, and this policy is bound to be unpopular with some Intel employees who support the group, regardless of whether they support the discriminatory policy against LGBT scouts and troop leaders. But by sticking to its principles, Intel and its leadership are sending a clear message about the importance of inclusion, to the company’s employees, potential employees, customers and clients, and society at large.

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