By Jeanne Leong
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked social justice protests throughout the United States and around the world this summer, leading many corporations to announce commitments to and investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“I think people are learning how deep-seated anti-Black racism is and are realizing that we must address it,” says Oscar Holmes IV, a Rutgers University‒Camden associate professor of management and an expert in organizational behavior. Holmes’ research explores ways in which business leaders can improve productivity and employees’ well-being by fostering environments that are more inclusive.
Holmes was recently named one of Diversity MBA Magazine’s 2020 Top 100 Under 50 Emerging and Executive Leaders for his work in diversity, equality, and inclusion.
Finance, tech, and retail firms have pledged support for the Black Lives Matter movement during the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately claimed Black lives and affected Black livelihoods.
In this turbulent year, says Holmes, a resident of Woolwich Township, the global racial reckoning, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, have made us aware of the nation’s critical weaknesses, but he adds that it has made us stronger. COVID-19 has helped to raise awareness of the need and of the importance of high-quality health care for everyone, he explains, and has shined a light on the difficulty of caring for loved ones while fulfilling work responsibilities.
The Rutgers‒Camden scholar says he is hopeful for progress in the future for more diverse, equal, and inclusive workplaces. “Powerful people and institutions are being more responsive to grassroots activists and movements, and broader coalitions are forming to eliminate systemic oppression,” explains Holmes.
Active in campus civic engagement projects, Holmes is the director of the Rutgers University Student Executive (RUSE) program, which gives high-achieving Rutgers–Camden undergraduate and New Jersey high school students the opportunity to create and pitch business plans.
His innovative speaker series program, Beyond the Mill, features faculty and area business and community leaders discussing thought-provoking topics involving diversity, equity, and inclusion. The program aims to help students feel more comfortable while they are learning and developing friendships and support systems on campus.
Holmes, the associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Rutgers School of Business‒Camden, mentors and encourages students to further their educations and pursue graduate school. MBA graduates typically go on to get lucrative jobs, Holmes says, and become leaders who can inspire future generations.
“MBA programs boast student bodies that are racio-ethnically diverse, yet too many still have few, if any, underrepresented group members – African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans – as students,” says Holmes.
He says business schools need to institutionalize diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values, as well as within the curriculum, to create the next generation of leaders who will better understand the value of a diverse workplace. “Business schools need to live out their values in their own administrative, faculty, and staff ranks by having a diverse employee workforce,” says the Rutgers–Camden scholar. “When organizations create inclusive and psychologically safe environments for all their employees, employees are much more satisfied, committed, perform better, and are willing to share more novel ideas and strategies that could better solve more complex problems than homogenous groups.”
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