Article

A House Divided Cannot Stand: Corporate America Must Lead

By Vanessa J. Weaver Ph.D.
December 8, 2020

Analysts interpreting results from the U.S. Presidential election just over a month ago formed an overwhelming consensus that the United States is a divided nation. The relatively close results for Biden (51.4%) vs. Trump’s (46.9%) was the major indicator.

The diversity skews were even more of a stark indicator. A majority of Whites voted for Trump (57%), while People of Color, overwhelming voted for Biden (72%). The increased gender divide, as predicted by pundits, didn’t bear out.

White women (55%) and White men (58%) were close in their majority votes for Trump. Seniors, who were predicted to shift to Biden because of Covid-19, didn’t’: they voted the same 55% for Trump as in 2016. Younger and first-time White voters voted for Trump (43%), while Multicultural people, in this age segment, voted for Biden (86%). There was an inverse relationship between White evangelicals, (80%) voting for Trump vs. Black evangelicals (90%) voting for Biden.

This current national divide did not escape Corporate America’s attention. What’s clear to corporate leaders and diversity practitioners is that a divided workplace cannot stand. It is reasonable to assume these voting patterns represent their employees’ values, alliances and the issues most important to them.

Understandably, many corporate leaders are on eggshells regarding how this “divide” will show up in their workplaces and affect day-to-day, one-to-one, and team workplace dynamics.

For businesses to be successful, they must have their diverse employees operating as highly engaged individuals, participating in inclusive teams, focused on delivering their organizational mission and business imperatives.

Historical precedents have taught us lessons regarding how the United States has navigated a “divided nation”. The first recording of this divided nation is reflected in the famous quote by President Abraham Lincoln in 1858, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand”. Slavery was the dividing issue.

Lincoln was referencing how slavery would destroy America’s democracy and his belief that the US democracy couldn’t survive with ongoing compromises allowing both half slave and half freed states in the new territories.

Today, as a nation and business community, we are still enslaved with unresolved issues of race. We are confronting systemic and structural racism as the country struggles with its “racial reckoning”.

Many contend this current racial reckoning has been an active process since 2017. Corporate America stepped up in a major way after the 2016 Presidential election to address the ensuing racial strife that came out of the shadows in 2017 until now.

Innumerable instances of racial strife and violence have contributed to the sense of racial and social division that is representative of a “house divided”. Some specific instances are:

1.) Charlottesville, VA march of White supremacists, 2.) the massacre of Black church members, while at a prayer service at the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina, 3.) the rise in Race hostilities and Hates crimes, 4.) proliferation of White Supremacist groups, in counter-protests, 5.) the summer of 2020 BLM protests against the killing of unarmed Blacks by Police.

What’s clear is that to counter the “divided nation” narrative, we have to entertain different perspectives on race and cultural issues and create brave spaces for people to share their points of view. The benefits can be tremendous when this occurs.

For example, for the first time in June/July 2020, there was a positive shift in White America’s and Republicans’ understanding of the “why”, regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement. White America wanted to engage in candid conversations about race and often reached out to their Black and Brown friends and associates to talk.

Corporate America started publicly calling out systemic and structural racism. Fortune 500 companies committed over $8+ billion to address issues of inequality and racism over the next 5-years.

One approach that has proven impactful, was the 2017 launch of structured “Meaningful Conversations” about Unconscious Bias, in which over 1200+ CEOS, thru the CEO in Action Initiative, committed their companies to participate.

Since June 2020, after the unfortunate murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, these conversations have morphed into discussions about race and their pace has accelerated.

After tens of thousands of these Meaningful Conversations, the needle is moving, regarding increasing racial understanding between people in their workplaces.

In one of my company, Alignment Strategies’, interventions our client’s senior-to-middle managers felt that engaging in Meaningful Conversations was a game-changer (86%) and helped them create more inclusion in their groups (93%).

Here is a snippet from the Meaningful Conversations training video which upskilled leaders and managers on the Meaningful Conversations Technique.


Our recommendation is for Corporate America to stay the course and expand its Meaningful Conversations to address this current “Divided House” reality.

However, to ensure sustainability, Meaningful Conversations must be followed with the Leadership identifying systemic barriers inside their workplaces and within their span of control to eradicate.

My firm, Alignment Strategies, uses this process to support leaders going beyond the Meaningful Conversations to make systemic changes:


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Being able to speak our truths, while having a willingness to be challenged on our assumptions and beliefs, will bring about a more conducive workplace environment where productivity increases, and the overall inclusive work experience will be positively heightened.
Alignment Strategies

If we are to find a solution that will bring our nation together, as an undivided people, we must begin to engage in a nationally sanctioned dialogue. This will bring about the realization that differences will always exist, yet we value more what we have in common.

The exploration of new possibilities for finding common ground will be key to building a better world and a more perfect union for all of us.

Being able to speak our truths, while having a willingness to be challenged on our assumptions and beliefs, will bring about a more conducive workplace environment where productivity increases, and the overall inclusive work experience will be positively heightened.

Acceptance of diversity of thought, without demonization, leads to enhanced belonging, greater productivity and increased profits.

Recognition that differences matter and learning how to live with them, allows us to operate in business and in life, as an undivided nation.


Dr. Vanessa J. Weaver Biography

Dr. Vanessa J. Weaver is a DBP partner and CEO of Alignment Strategies, LLC.

Alignment Strategies is a consulting firm with over 30 years of expertise, focusing on all facets of diversity management and leveraging DI&E to enhance business performance by increasing employee engagement and inclusion.

You can learn more about her at AlignmentStrategies.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.


About the Authors

Vanessa J. Weaver Ph.D.