The United States has just concluded its first 2020 presidential debate and those who tuned in were likely left with more questions than answers by the end of the night. One of the many topics covered was race and diversity in America, but for all intents and purposes, the issue was not fully discussed. Both candidates side stepped questions and failed to truly engage in conversation. There is really no debate to be had against diversity, but it is still an issue worth having a discussion about as America works towards a more perfect union that is inclusive to all. The effect of diversity on the retail and restaurant industries is not a new development, but 2020 has brought on more frank discussions than have been had in the past few decades.

Perhaps one of the reasons diversity was glossed over in the debate is that the issue is often uncomfortable to bring up in conversation. Both candidates certainly seemed uncomfortable with the topic on the debate stage and diversity often makes people reluctant to speak. However, the uncomfortable feeling that comes with diversity is the very reason we need to discuss it. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made with the implementation of diversity in both life and the workplace and having valuable and uncomfortable conversations about it can show where the gaps are.

Many companies in the U.S. have reiterated their support for diversity over the past few years, but sometimes their good intentions lead to unwanted outcomes. Further problems arise when a company makes an effort to hire more diverse candidates, but then fails to put them in a position to succeed. We have seen this issue occur through a current lawsuit against McDonald’s Corporation claiming that they set up some of their black franchisees to fail. The lawsuit’s allegations range from forcing franchisees to build in unfavorable locations to failing to provide proper support and training materials from the corporate offices. While these charges are still unproven, it is an eye opening example of how diversity could be implemented in a damaging way. Even the act of brining in candidates to satisfy the requirements of a diversity hire can have the unintended consequence of leaving another group out. In 2009 Walmart recognized there was a disparity between men and women in leadership roles and they launched an initiative to fix this. That gap has been closed significantly, but the number of Black leadership roles has not grown and in some years declined. Walmart is not the only company this has happened to, but they are a good example of how too much focus on one area can create blind spots for others.

Thankfully, one of the best changes that corporations have made is the creation of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer positions. Diversity divisions, especially in large companies, can help executives and store-level employees engage with the idea and help prevent some of the pitfalls we have seen over the last few decades. Restaurant chains like Taco Bell have made a push to get more minority franchisees and other chains are taking similar avenues. Some companies like Amazon have agreed to disclose their private diversity data that will look ensure that action is taken alongside the dialogue of diversity.

When going to the polls this November, Americans will have to think about what diversity can be in 2021 and which candidate will help those goals. Recently, President Trump signed an executive order that would remove diversity training from government jobs and government contracted corporations. It is unknown what kind of change this will cause towards diversity hiring or if another type of training will be implemented in the future. However, President Trump recently backed expanded diversity training in police forces across America. Vice President Biden has laid out an economic diversity plan that is designed to reduce the economic disparities in America, but it accomplishes this goal mainly through tax cuts and does not focus on improving diversity in the workplace. There is a distinct lack of clarity from both candidates and neither has laid out a complete diversity plan with less than a month away from Election Day.

Diversity can be a difficult topic to navigate, but it will only become easier to talk about through increased dialogue and implementation. America is a diverse country and the more our politicians and corporations engage with that fact the better it will be for all.