CEO, Carnival Corporation
“You have to purposely engineer diversity, because it doesn’t happen on its own. it’s human nature to hang around people like yourself. it’s not evil, it’s not bad, it’s just natural. You need disrupters if you want to keep changing and growing.”
Skip Spriggs: Well, arnold, we’ve both sat in the elC’s CeO chair, and now you’ve sat in several different ones. Can you tell me a bit about how your life experience helped form your perspective on diversity and inclusion?
arnold donald: I grew up in segregated New Orleans. It had its own particular flavor of segregation, but it was still segregation. When I was in the eighth grade, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered schools to be integrated, so I went to high school when a lot of new things were happening. And Americans landed on the moon. Everything seemed possible.
In high school I spent a summer at a prep school in New England, and I laid out a plan to become a general manager at a major science-based company. I had no idea what any of that meant. Nobody in my family had ever even been in business. It was just an idea that came to me from getting out of my own family, my own neighborhood, into another world. I learned early in life to enjoy discovering what people have in common, so I didn’t fear differences. I celebrated them.
SS: What would you say is the effect of those experiences on your company?
ad: In business it became apparent to me very early on that if you get a diverse group of talented people, organize them around a common objective and give them a process that allows them to explore, we would out-solution a homogeneous team every time. When I first did this, eyebrows were raised, and worse, but then we got results. And when you get results, the talk goes away. I played that catalytic role in three different industries, always with highly diverse teams.
SS: With current black CeOs such a small group, i wonder if you have a perspective on how to increase the number? ad:
Yes. Start with a critical mass of diverse folks one or two levels from the CEO, so there are several who have the opportunity to ascend. It will happen.