Going Beyond the Moral and Business Case for Diversity

Cyrus Mehri Talks to the Wall Street Journal About Why Innovative Diversity Efforts Are Key to Sustaining a Strong Democracy

M&S partner Cyrus Mehri spoke with Wall Street Journal’s The Future of Everything at the end of 2020 to discuss the need to foster greater diversity and inclusion at American companies, not just to prosper economically but also to sustain our shared democratic values. The piece, “How to Expand Diversity in the Workplace,” appeared in the print and online editions ahead of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Last summer, as Americans protested across the country for Black and Brown lives after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police officers, racial justice has become more than just a social priority. From politics to the corporate world, leaders are moving to take concrete action against systemic racism and the socioeconomic inequities that stem from it.

Speaking to WSJ’s Lauren Weber, Mr. Mehri stressed the need to hold leaders accountable on these promises. He went on to outline the need for greater innovation at companies to reward long-term commitment to equal opportunity.

“I’m looking for innovations that fit the American spirit, and that’s about fair competition, giving people a fair shot and merit-based decisions,” said Mr. Mehri. “We need a new technology, a silicon chip for equal opportunity. We have the ideas and the science to make it happen.”

One way to innovate, suggested Mr. Mehri, is to “merge SEC disclosures—annual reports, 10Ks—with advancing equal opportunity.” Having to disclose their own diversity numbers would not only force companies to compete against each other in the arena of equal opportunity but also, as shown by social science research, would also motivate further innovation and progress.

Mr. Mehri also pointed towards the diminishing role of litigation in addressing equal opportunity issues at companies. Over the last decade, he noted, forced arbitration and escalating legal standards have made it increasingly difficult to band together to advance equal opportunity.

As the son of immigrants from Iran, Mr. Mehri has dedicated his work to fighting racial discrimination and other barriers to equal opportunity in and outside the courtroom. He also champions interviewing multiple diverse candidates to drive change. In 2002, Mr. Mehri’s anti-racism work resulted in the Rooney Rule, a policy adopted by the National Football League that requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for head coaching positions. Mr. Mehri is also the co-founder of the Frtiz Pollard Alliance and Working IDEAL.

To read the full interview, please visit the WSJ website.