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The business case for diversity.


Corporations are under continued pressure to improve their bottom lines. The fast-pace, ever-changing face of today's customer and the products and services they've come to expect only increase the pressure. Companies must not only meet these demands, but also do it with the right people in place who can determine and evaluate the needs and then deliver them.

It's this objective that is the driving force behind achieving and managing diversity in the workplace. Diversity management helps organizations identify and capitalize on opportunities to improve products and services and also attract, retain, motivate and utilize their employees effectively. It is integral to improving the quality of decision-making at all organizational levels and position the company as a socially responsible and progressive organization.

Recent U.S. Census statistics reveal that Hispanics have replaced African Americans as the largest minority in the U.S. The number of Americans of Hispanic origin jumped to 14.1 percent of the total population last year. Asian Americans have almost doubled their presence since 1990, to 4.2 percent of the total population. While whites still remain the largest single group in the United States--69 percent, that number is down from 76 percent in 1990. These are sobering statistics that have compelled many companies to fortify their diversity initiatives.

However, diversity must be achieved and managed effectively if its benefits are to be achieved. This requires leadership commitment, the establishment of priorities and realistic objectives, the assessment and development of policies and practices to meet the particular diversity needs of the organization, including accommodation needs, and the provision of management and employee training and support processes.

Diversity At Work

Corporate America has realized how diversity initiatives help improve their abilities to do business. "As a provider of managed services, ARAMARK brings value to its clients by making their places of business more comfortable, satisfying, exciting and appealing," says Elizabeth Campbell, vice president, Employment Practices and Services, FSS and corporate diversity officer at ARAHARK, a foodservice supplier.

The Philadelphia-based company also strives to maintain diversity at the highest levels by developing a diverse pipeline of talent, both internally for succession planning and promotions, and externally for new hires. Its Leadership Development Series, which offers multi-day, off-site learning in peer environments include modules on many leadership development topics and key business strategies, including diversity, and are designed primarily to help domestic management employees with high potential to grow and learn critical leadership skills, notes Campbell.

Little Representation On Corporate Boards

Despite corporate America's boast of diversity throughout its ranks, there is silence when it comes to diversity on corporate boards. According to a Nay 2005 study--Women and Minorities on Fortune 100 Boards- conducted by the Alliance for Board Diversity, there is a severe under-representation of women and minorities on corporate boards of the Fortune 100 companies.

The study pointed out that as or September 2004, board seats on the Fortune 100 companies totaled 1395 with minorities holding 178 seats, or 14.90 percent, while white men and women held 1,017, or 85.10 percent, of the seats. African Americans held 120, or 10.04 percent, of the seats, with African American men holding 95 seats, or 7.78 percent, and African American women holding 27, or 2.26 percent, of the seats.

Also noted was the lack of representation of minority women, as well as Asian American and Hispanic populations and that there was a "recycling" of the same minority individuals--especially African American men. The study surmised, "although there is a desire for diversity on the Fortune 100 boards, very few of the boards have representation from all groups, and more than 60 percent of the boards have less than one-third of their seats occupied by women, minorities, or women and minorities."

Strides Continue

While work still needs to be done at the board level, corporate America continues to enhance their diversity initiatives going beyond historical employment equity legislation demands and recognizing the contributions that individuals can make. The good news appears to be confined to large companies, but some smaller organizations don't feel the same shareholder and employee pressure to pursue diversity initiatives. Ultimately, no matter the size of the organization, the imperatives of competitiveness, demography, immigration, and globalization will force every company to meet the demands of a changing world.


* For U.I Census 2000 information:

* For information and training materials on diversity and multicultural issues in the workplace:

* For marketing information:
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Article Details
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Author:Hayes, Cassandra
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Advertisement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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