Successful Diversity Management Begins at the Top. (Special Advertising Section)

Black Enterprise, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Successful Diversity Management Begins at the Top. (Special Advertising Section)


The 2000 Census data was a wake-up call for many corporations that believed diversity was a do-good, soft human-resources effort that didn't impact their core business or long-term financial success. However, many of those companies are being forced to change that viewpoint. The demographics of the United States are shifting, As the white majority ages, the next and future generations increasingly are comprised of people of color.

According to Census 2000, Hispanics and African-Americans are now virtually equal in number. The number of Americans of Hispanic origin jumped by 58 percent over the past decade, to 13 percent of the total population. By 2005 Hispanics are projected to be the largest minority population in America. African Americans now account for 13 percent of the total, an increase of about 16 percent. 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.

It's the bottom line

There are many employers who see the potential in these numbers. Yet, despite these statistics, corporate America continues to be run largely by white men with limited interest in people of color or other diverse groups, including people with disabilities and gays/lesbians. Failure to recognize and reach out to the changing demographics and growing wealth of the multicultural marketplace will prove very costly to many companies.

"Managing diversity is critical," says Jeff Greene, co-founder and managing partner at NextGEN, an executive recruiting firm in Somers, New York that specializes in diverse candidates. "From a business standpoint and given the recent census data, it is imperative that businesses ensure that the population of the workforce mirrors the population they serve. The environment, across all industries-it is so competitive-that if you are not addressing the entire population then you are not maximizing your earning potential." You do that by having a diverse workforce that can answer the call.

Investing in people is key

A decade ago, American companies set out to do this by implementing elaborate training programs and initiatives that enlightened their workforces and defined areas where competencies and representation could be enhanced. But training could not do it alone. Unless the culture was changed, trying to comfortably fit minorities into corporate America was like trying to fit elephants into houses built for giraffes.

Employers must focus on developing, supporting and changing the environment around them to be more inclusive. That means recognizing that managing diversity is a long-term process-and not a one shot deal--that starts with a thorough review of policies and practices that may be discriminatory. …

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