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James Fripp: It’s not about diversity and inclusion; it’s about inclusive leadership

The Yum! Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer identifies promising ways to implement inclusive leadership at the 2019 National Retail Federation Big Show.

Image provided by NRF.

Published on January 15, 2019

The reason why many executive leadership teams and corporate boards or corporations themselves appear homogenous is that they address diversity and inclusion as a science, rather than an A-R-T, an acronym Yum! Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer James Fripp coined to describe "Authenticity that builds Relationships that build Trust."

Fripp spoke at the 2019 National Retail Federation Big Show on Jan. 13 (watch his full presentation here) and gave the audience several statistics on which to chew:


  • The LGBTQ community has the highest disposable income of any U.S. demographic, close to $1 trillion
  • Black Americans are considered trendsetters for brands
  • Asian Americans spend twice the time as other demographics on multimedia devices
  • By 2020, Asia is projected to hold more than half of the world’s population with Africa next, harboring nearly a quarter.


These facts are the science, or the business case, behind why a diverse and inclusive workforce, especially in leadership, is important in corporate America.

“The reality of it is, the world is changing. It’s changing quickly, and we’ve got to get on the bus,” Fripp said. “If we don’t, we will become irrelevant, and quite honestly for us [Yum! and its brands, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell], that’s not an option.”

So if Fortune 500 companies know this, why aren’t there more women and minorities in high-ranking positions? Fripp says it’s because companies are inadvertently discussing the issue as an “us versus them.”

“We’ve been addressing diversity and inclusion as a science — the data, the numbers,” he said. “We have to address diversity and inclusion via the fears, the apprehensions, the obstacles.”

Such a fear is when straight, white, male leaders worry that they’ll be displaced in favor of minority and female management. To combat this feeling, Fripp changes the words “diversity and inclusion” to “inclusive leadership” because it’s not “us vs them;” it’s just us. There’s a place and voice for everyone.

Corporations, Fripp argues, shouldn’t look at diversifying their workforce as a science but in terms of A-R-T, which again, stands for Authenticity that builds Relationships that build Trust. Only then can businesses coach each employee, answering what a diverse workforce means for every individual, whereas a scientific approach would issue quotas and instill fear.

Yum! is fortunate to have the support of its CEO, Greg Creed, who in March 2018,  said: “I want to see Yum! Brands be a more INCLUSIVE workplace that unlocks potential in ALL types of people and fully leverages the diversity of thought that comes from our differences in gender, ethnicity, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, professional background, and even style of communication and leadership.”

His statement is rooted in the Yum! value and its commitment TO BELIEVE IN ALL PEOPLE.

“We believe our unrivaled culture and talent is what differentiates us from our competitors and what fuels our results,” Yum! Chief Transformation and People Officer Tracy Skeans echoed. “As part of our relentless focus on people, we are working to ensure we have ALL people represented at all levels of our organization.”

To do this, Yum! and its brands have taken this A-R-T approach, and it’s proven effective with increased numbers of women in global senior leadership roles. But there’s still work to be done, Fripp says, with under-represented minorities in the company’s higher ranks, and Yum! will continue its efforts with authenticity, which builds relationships and forms trust.


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