Adeola Emdin: More accountability needed in diversity recruiting

Accountability is lacking in the diversity recruiting and retention efforts of U.S. companies, according to the experience of Adeola Emdin, a Consortium Eagle Club member and a 2008 MBA graduate from the University of Wisconsin.

“I’ve seen companies brag about their diversity numbers, but no one discusses the retention rates of these employees,” Emdin told us in an email. “There is no accountability.”

She’s director of strategic marketing and operations at PRIMUS, a boutique marketing and business management firm that works with numerous clients. We caught up with her to learn more about her association with The Consortium, the reasons for her deep financial commitment to the organization and what got her where she is today.

Can you tell us a little about your job today and some career highlights?
PRIMUS combines the thought leadership of a consulting company with the manpower of trained specialists to make big differences in small businesses and nonprofit organizations that we support.

In my position, I manage not only the marketing efforts of our organization, but also those of our clients. It feels like I am the CMO of a company with an extremely diversified portfolio. It ties to my passion for creating iconic products and brands. I can leverage my technical knowledge to help smaller organizations that can’t afford to hire a full-time marketing executive. It’s my way of doing what I love while enabling other entrepreneurs to follow their passion and do what they love.

You’re a member of the Eagle Club now; how did you originally become aware of The Consortium? What compelled you to get involved with The Consortium in the first place?
I came across The Consortium when I was looking into an MBA program. I received a package in the mail from the Wisconsin School of Business and was impressed with their specialization model. I wanted to do brand management and the thought of attending a school with a network of alumni and a board of advisors that are high ranking marketers was enticing.

In the fall of 2005, I met with a rep from Wisconsin. During our chat, she informed me of The Consortium and encouraged me to consider applying through The Consortium. I did some research on The Consortium and completed my application before the end of the year. I stayed involved in the Consortium and was a student rep my second year.

Why have you decided to become so deeply involved financially? What benefits have you drawn from your Consortium association?
I am grateful to The Consortium for its contribution to where I am today. Through The Consortium, I was awarded a scholarship to my top school, the Wisconsin School of Business. I received an internship through the Orientation Program that led to a full-time job. The culmination of those events have provided me experience in my field as well as a deeper understanding of the current state of business.

I have made some amazing lifelong friends and strong business relationships through the Consortium. These people enrich my life personally and professionally.

How would you persuade someone else to become an Eagle Club member?
Pay it forward. Appreciate what you have been given and remember someone else’s contributions made your opportunity happen.

How has the climate for diversity in U.S. business helped or hindered you on your path? Has that climate changed over the years? Have you seen ebbs and flows? In what ways?
In my perspective, the climate for diversity in the world of business has not made as many strides as I had previously believed. Through The Consortium, I have seen companies hire diverse talent and was an active member of the recruiting team at my previous employer. What I realized was that once these qualified and talented individuals got into an organization, there were internal barriers that hindered upward mobility.

I’ve seen companies brag about their diversity numbers, but no one discusses the retention rates of these employees. There is no accountability.

I have seen the cyclical nature, the ebb and flow. Internally, the diversity numbers are down, so there is a huge push to bring in talent. Over time, someone decides there is enough or too much diversity in the building and the efforts are stopped. Then comes the weeding out. The diverse talent leave for various reasons and the push to add diverse talent begins again.

Of all the measurements for diversity, I think what would be most telling is to poll companies and ask the following: How many diverse candidates did you hire over the last 10 year and how many are still in your organization? Why did they leave? For those who are still there, how do they feel about the diversity in the organization?

What do you do when you’re not working? Hobbies, passions?
I spend a lot of time with family and friends. We always gather in the living room or at the dinner table and engage in passionate conversations on various topics from personal to political. I enjoy the look on my daughter’s face as she looks from person to person trying to understand the discussion.

I am also an avid (indoor) gardener. I grow everything from herbs and vegetables to tropical fruits. Gardening relaxes me and it’s a great way to eat healthy. I like knowing where my food is coming—and it just tastes better.

When is the last time you referred someone—either a student prospect or a business associate—to The Consortium? What was the conversation like?
I don’t recall the last time I directly referred someone to The Consortium. I think I have gotten used to just bringing it up in conversation that it may very well have been yesterday that I brought the organization to someone’s attention. Whenever friends, family, colleagues or business acquaintances bring up applying to or thinking about getting an MBA, I almost always bring up The Consortium and the Wisconsin School of Business.

I recently received a note on LinkedIn from a young woman who had approached me at a diversity conference back in 2009. She was pursuing her bachelor’s and wanted to do brand management. I could feel her passion as we talked. I encouraged her to get some work experience after graduating and consider The Consortium when she felt she was ready for her MBA. Well, the note she sent me last week was to inform me that after six years, she finally submitted her Consortium application at the January deadline and is eagerly waiting to hear back. That brought a smile to my face.