Executive Michele Thornton Ghee: 'Diversity Is Who You Are, Inclusion Is What You Do'

"People hire people they feel the most comfortable with that are most like them, but that’s not sustainable," said Michele Thornton Ghee, an author, speaker, and sales leader. Diversity, followed by inclusion, is good for business, she told a packed audience at Women Of The channel 2019.


Diversity and inclusion are directly tied to a healthier bottom line.

That's because differences in culture can breed innovation, and innovation means a more competitive and profitable company, said Michele Thornton Ghee, a "champion of people" who's also an author, speaker, and current executive vice president of business development for Endeavor Global Marketing, a firm whose customers include such popular brands as Microsoft, Marriott, and Rolex.

"We have power and we don't use it. When [women] walk through a door, a company is 35 percent more successful," Ghee told attendees during her keynote at The Channel Company's Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West 2019.

Sponsored post

But the diversity conversation, which includes race, religion, sexuality, and even location, along with gender, has to begin at the leadership level, she said. Leaders have to be committed to giving different kinds of people a seat at the table.

"You're not diverse if you're all from the same place," she said. "People hire people they feel the most comfortable with that are most like them, but that’s not sustainable."

[Related: The NFL's Sarah Thomas On Why Empowering, Not Being First, Matters]

As the only African American woman leading a national television sales team, Ghee has seen first-hand how important it is to have different eyes on a project or business goal. She served as the vice president of BET Networks for seven years, CNN's director of multicultural sales for more than six years, and an account manager for The Weather Channel, among other roles in the cable industry.

But while diversity is who you are, inclusion is what you do. Ghee said the next step after diversity is recognizing the differences and strengths of its staff, because diversity by itself isn't sustainable.

Having many different voices not just within the company that are all allowed and encouraged to be heard has been a big benefit to En Pointe IT Solutions, an El Segundo, California-based solution provider. The company today has a staff that is largely made up of women, LGBT, and people of color, said Kris Rogers, president of En Pointe IT Solutions.

"When you bring in people they have different backgrounds, from their race, to their gender, age, and where they were raised, you have this fascinating balance," Rogers said. "For us, it's been a very constructive dynamic."

While Ghee felt like she was alone on an island at many companies she's worked for, she countered that feeling by hiring women and people of different backgrounds and worked hard to make sure her staff didn't feel the same way. Women in leadership roles especially have a unique and important opportunity to "extend an olive branch" to their sisterhood, Ghee said. There's no need for women to feel threatened by more women joining the team, she added.

"You can't have what's meant for me," she said. "We can't let anyone feel like there's only room for one."

Diversity and inclusion is also linked to employee retention, Ghee said. "When the room looks different, people want to stay."

Tech companies, which need to innovate at a rapid place, especially require increased diversity and inclusion, Ghee said. "Include everyone that is talented and worthy," she said. "That should be the norm."