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Why DEI Is a Business Initiative, Not an HR Initiative


By Karen McFarlane

This is part two of a series of snack-sized insights from Chief Diversity Officers on how they can partner with marketing to create more inclusive cultures. This interview is with Tamika Curry Smith, a true pioneer in the discipline of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Let’s start this post by first giving Tamika Curry Smith her flowers. 

Tamika Curry Smith is the Chief Diversity Officer at Arm, a semiconductor and software design company. She also serves as President of TCS Group, a firm that provides human resources and DEI solutions to a broad range of clients. Before this, Tamika was Vice President of Global Diversity Inclusion at Nike, where she was responsible for leading a global D&I team across the Nike, Jordan, and Converse brands. Tamika also served as Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Mercedes-Benz, Director of Diversity at Target, and Director of Diversity Programs for Deloitte consulting. She has received a bevy of awards, been featured in numerous publications, including Black Enterprise and the New York Times, and continues to share her expertise with her alma maters, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and the Kellogg School of Management. Tamika is also an Advisor to Goldman Sachs and early-stage start-ups and venture capital firms such as Talenya, Ltd., SemperVirens Venture Capital, and Fearless Fund. 

Her bouquet of roses is overflowing and Tamika deserves the recognition. As a 20-year champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Tamika has watched this discipline grow and evolve, sitting at the center of creating inclusive companies at some of the world’s most well-known brands. She is a true pioneer that approaches DEI with a business mindset and, like us, views Marketing as a critical player in developing inclusive brands. Perhaps this is because Tamika started her career in business and client services, or maybe it’s fueled by her degrees in accounting, strategy, and marketing. Nevertheless, Tamika has shape-shifted her career into a coveted case study of what organizations are craving now — a business-centered approach to DEI that is integrated at all levels and throughout all departments.

In this interview, Tamika and I cover various topics, starting with why DEI is a business initiative that shouldn’t live with Human Resources. In about 25 minutes, we discuss:

  • Why CDOs should report to the C-Suite
  • Where B2B and B2C DEI goals align and differ
  • How CDOs can work with marketing to advance your company’s business objectives 
  • How CDOs can contribute to creating an authentic brand voice
  • How to pilot the relationship between the CMO and CDO regardless of reporting structure

After watching, you’ll receive tangible examples of how Marketing and DEI leaders and team members can start working together to grow the business — from branding and advertising to sponsorships, casting, and marketing research. While Tamika doesn’t hesitate to provide specifics, at the 50,000-foot view are three critical takeaways: 1) lead by example; 2) seek and listen to diverse perspectives; and 3) collaborate. After all, that is the definition of inclusion. 

Scroll back up to watch the video. 

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Download the original research report: Marketing’s Role in Creating an Inclusive Future: Confidential Insights from 25 Executive Marketing Leaders to learn how CMOs are dealing with challenges and creating opportunities when it comes to the talent pipeline. 

Karen McFarlane specializes in companies that are on the verge of something big. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Kaye Media, Karen helps industrious high-growth businesses push their boundaries and build lasting connections with customers that drive exponential growth and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Through a strategic partnership, Karen is CMO of LetterShop, a creative agency for startups to Fortune 1000. She is the past President of AMA New York and sits on several non-profit and advisory boards. She was recently named as one of Crain New York’s Most Notable in Marketing and PR.