Performative Diversity in Practice

Why we have to talk about the CEO lunch at Munich Security Conference 2022

An infamous picture of this year’s Munich’s Security Conference (MSC) has been circulating on social media. It captures the CEO lunch of the conference consisting of current and past top managers dining together in a large conference room. People were quick to point out that among the 30 managers was not a single woman. Considering that most companies sending their CEOs to conferences like MSC do actively advocate for diversity, the outrage based on the lack of women is understandable. In a previous post we have discusssed how to recognize performative diversity (read it here). You will find that the picture from the CEO lunch ticks many of those boxes.

However, there is much more wrong with this lunch setting than just the absence of women. 

The concept of diversity centers around seven core dimensions. These are: age, nationality and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, socioeconomic status (Source: Charta der Vielfalt). 

If you remember, performative diversity occurs when organizations actively advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion but do not undertake practical action to contribute to their achievement.

Let’s take a closer look at the CEO lunch at MSC 2022 and why we have to talk about it

  1. Age: all men in the picture appear to be at an advanced age
  2. Nationality and ethnicity: all men in the picture appear to be white males of Caucasian origin
  3. Gender: no women are present in the picture
  4. Sexual Orientation: unobservable through the picture
  5. Religion: unobservable through the picture but based on observations on nationality, ethnicity and skin tones, diversity in religious views is expected to be limited
  6. Disability: not all disabilities necessarily have to be visible (see our post on diabetes at work). However, no signs of visible disabilities are observable in the picture
  7. Socioeconomic status: considering that the picture captures a CEO lunch, all participants are expected to have a very stable financial background

As Der Tagesspiegel reports the Munich Security Conference numbered the final quota of women among speakers in the main program of this year’s conference at 45%. So why did this not translate to the CEO lunch? Likely for the same reason as to why the above picture is such an adequate example for performative diversity in practice: it is performative diversity in practice. 

Do you have suggestion about what could be done to prevent us all from seeing the same picture at Munich Security Conference 2023? Leave them in the comments below. However, please remember that diversity is a sensitive topic, so please be respectful in the comment section.

If you want to read more on the direct impact of performative diversity in practice, read this post on the story of Eila.

If you’re more interested in university-related content, click here.

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