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A Better Workplace


Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality

Why Some Team-Building Events Backfire


By Melissa J. Anderson

When managers are looking to increase the collegiality of their employees, one of the standard methods is to hold team-building events – like picnics, happy hours, or other after-work outings (otherwise known as “integration experiences”). The idea is to get people to share information about themselves beyond what happens at work, thereby increasing closeness between coworkers.

And usually, it works – studies show that when colleagues are emotionally closer to one another, they end up working together better. But, according to new research, the “integration experience” method of producing that closeness can backfire.

It turns out that team-building activities can make people feel closer in homogeneous groups. But in diverse groups, that doesn’t necessarily happen. In fact, these activities can go so far as to have the opposite effect, causing minority employees to feel even more isolated. After all, attempts at conversation can sometimes produce more differences, rather than similarities. This ultimately creates a magnified feeling of difference in the person of a demographic minority.

The study, “Getting Closer at the Company Party: Integration Experiences, Racial Dissimilarity, and Workplace Relationships” was written by Tracy L. Dumas, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University; Katherine W. Phillips, Columbia Business School, Columbia University; and Nancy P. Rothbard, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. It was recently published in the journal Organization Science.

The authors write, “These findings highlight the importance of creating the right kind of interactions for building closer relationships between employees, particularly relationships that span racial boundaries.”

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Intersection of Race and Gender Affects Leadership Choices

Diverse team all looking right

By Melissa J. Anderson

We know that race and gender can influence who gets jobs and promotions, and ultimately who becomes a leader within corporations. But new research has revealed that the intersection of race and gender – “gendered race” – also has an impact on leadership decisions.

The study, “Gendered Races: Implications for Interracial Marriage, Leadership Selection, and Athletic Participation” examines how gendered characteristics are implicitly assigned to racial categories. The phenomenon can have a profound affect both in the workplace, when considering what jobs are considered appropriate for individuals of particular race/gender combinations, as well as in people’s lives outside work (from athletic participation to spousal selection).

The researchers, Adam D. Galinsky, Northwestern University; Erika V. Hall, Northwestern University, and Amy J. C. Cuddy, Harvard University, write that the intersection between racial and gender stereotypes has “important real-world consequences.”

They explain, “…we demonstrate that the overlap between racial and gender stereotypes goes beyond facial features and is captured in the content of stereotypes.” Then they performed additional studies to show how these stereotypes play out in real life.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality

Sponsorship Needed for Minority Employees


By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

A new study by the Center for Talent Innovation has revealed the importance of sponsorship to for the advancement and retention of people of color.

The study also highlights the link between sponsorship and building a culture of inclusiveness where minority employees feel comfortable being themselves and see themselves as leaders. The report, “Vaulting the Color Bar: How Sponsorship Leavers Multicultural Professionals into Leadership” was written by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Maggie Jackson, and Ellis Cose, with Courtney Emerson and outlines the challenges people of color face in making it to leadership in corporate America.

The authors write:

“Despite an abundance of drive and tremendous gains in the workplace, too many African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans are stalled several layers below the C-suite, facing lingering bias and entrenched ideals of white male leadership. Why is this impressive talent pool unable to break into the uppermost echelons again and again?”

According to the researchers, a confluence of factors – subtle bias, feelings of not fitting in, and most notably a lack or sponsorship – are hindering the advancement of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian employees. The upside, CTI believes, is that a focus on sponsorship can help dislodge these barriers.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Critical Mass in Group Relations


By Melissa J. Anderson

As the number of women in boardrooms and on executive committees increases, there reaches a point where women feel safe to speak up, get enthusiastic, take risks, and make waves – without being seen as a threat to the status quo, as overemotional, as a risky hire, or as a token place holder. That number has often been referred to as “critical mass.”  Critical mass is the notion of safety in numbers, and most agree that the magic number is 30%.

The idea of critical mass is often referenced in efforts toward increasing the percentage of women in the boardrooms, but it can be applied to any minority group – there’s nothing in the theory behind it to suggest the critical mass effect only works with women. In fact, the critical mass model can be used to encourage the recruitment and promotion of any minority group.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality

BE Magazine’s Best Companies for Diversity Focuses on Suppliers

Multi-ethnic business people in office

By Melissa J. Anderson

Earlier this month, Black Entertainment Magazine released its 2012 list of the top companies for diversity. This year, BE Magazine said, their focus would be on supplier diversity.

Cliff Hocker, writer at BE Magazine, explained, “This year BE focused on supplier diversity, because winning contracts to provide products and services is the lifeblood of most businesses. Corporations spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year purchasing an array of goods and services from suppliers. Although diversity among suppliers has come a long way, it still has a long way to go.”

The companies on the list were rated on four measures: supplier diversity, senior management, board involvement, and employee base. BE Careers  and Lifestyle Editor Sonia Alleyne explained, “In developing this year’s list, we wanted to make sure we identified  companies that viewed diversity as a business imperative.”

She continued, “In fact, several of the 40 Best  Companies for Diversity excel in all four categories we surveyed, including  Denny’s Corp., Fannie Mae, McDonald’s Corp., and WGL Holdings Inc. A varied pool of senior managers and suppliers at these companies, along with their strengths in developing a diverse workforce and corporate board, will  enable them to be even more competitive on a global scale.”

A commitment to supplier diversity indicates that a company truly values diversity, supporting minority business owners and communities. Hocker noted that in the decade between 2001 and 2011 spending with certified Minority Business Enterprises by members of the National Minority Supplier Development Council increased from $63 billion to $100 billion. But, he said, companies are still underperforming when it comes to supplier diversity, with a disproportionate amount of contracts going to non-minority owned businesses.

Nevertheless, many companies are working to do better – and these were the companies highlighted on this year’s Best Companies For Diversity list. Hocker praised companies that have established programs on developer education and mentorship, as well as initiatives to better track spending with minority owned businesses.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality

Engaging Asian American Employees


By Melissa J. Anderson

According to this year’s Asian Pacific Americans Corporate Survey released by the Asia Society, companies can tap into a significant advantage by better engaging their Asian Pacific American workforce.

While the vast majority of respondents indicate loyalty to their companies, many of them say they don’t feel like they really belong at their companies. Additionally, satisfaction with growth and advancement slows as APA employees get older. APAs born in America and those who immigrated to the US earlier in life tend to have higher levels of dissatisfaction than their APA counterparts who immigrated to the US later on.

Working harder to engage these groups would provide a competitive edge, though. For example, the report explains, the APA market is valuable, and growing more so every day. Yet the respondents indicated that their companies had better knowledge of the markets in Asian countries than the Asian Pacific American market.

By better tapping into the rich knowledge base of APA employees, companies could gain an advantage with APA customers and clients, as well as help engage their APA high performers.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Financial Firms to Make Workforce Diversity Data Transparent


By Melissa J. Anderson

Yesterday it was announced that two financial firms, Goldman Sachs and MetLife, will start publicizing their diversity statistics – specifically, they will make public information regarding the gender and racial make-up of their workforce, including that of senior management.

The announcement comes following pressure by New York City Comptroller John Liu, who serves as investment adviser, trustee and custodian of five the city’s largest pension funds: New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and Board of Education Retirement System. The funds hold 1,236,363 shares of Goldman Sachs and 2,342,129 shares of MetLife.

In recent times, companies have faced increasing outcry from investors to increase diversity, as research shows companies with more diversity tend to perform better. Liu said, “Studies have shown the benefits of a diverse workforce on company performance and long-term shareowner value, and many companies say they are making serious efforts to recruit, retain and promote women and minorities.”

He added, “But without quantitative disclosure, shareowners have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts. We appreciate Goldman Sachs and MetLife taking this important step to demonstrate their commitment to equal employment opportunities.”

According to the Office of the Comptroller, several firms have been asked to provide these statistics – and Goldman Sachs and MetLife are leading the way.

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Programmatic and Leadership Support Makes Deloitte a Top Latina Employer

Young business woman

By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently Latina Style released its list of the top 50 companies for Latinas – and at the topping the list was Deloitte. Praised for its scholarship and training programs, and dedication to Latina professionals in particular, the company has also sponsored Women of ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting) program.

But corporate culture is more than the sum of programs and initiatives. According to Latina Style, Deloitte’s work to help develop and advance its employees, as well as vocal leadership support for diversity, are reasons the firm was named number one.

As Deloitte’s CEO Joe Echevarria recently wrote in Latina Style, “Businesses that take the initiative to address the changes reshaping our society now improve their chances of leading – and winning. Businesses that stand by and do nothing run the risk of being left behind.”

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality

Companies Making Slow Progress in Hispanic Inclusion


By Melissa J. Anderson

The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility has released its 2011 Corporate Inclusion Index. The CII measures Hispanic inclusion on behalf of companies by measuring the attraction, retention, and promotion of Hispanic employees, procurement practices, community outreach, and governance.

The 16 board directors of the HACR praised the steps corporations have taken over the past few years toward the inclusion of Hispanic individuals. They wrote, “The last three years have seen an increase in participation, better reporting, and overall a clearer, more transparent sense of what corporations are doing in terms of diversity best practices.”

But, they continued, companies have significant work to do. “Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and we have the largest buying power of any minority group. Yet, Hispanics are the most underrepresented group in Corporate America.”

Corporations that are ignoring a group whose buying power is projected to reach 1$.5 trillion by 2015 are doing their stakeholders a disservice, they suggested. Carlos F. Ota, President and CEO of the HACR pointed out that the Hispanic market is 50 million consumers strong. He added, “market reciprocity dictates that we should be represented across all levels of a corporation, from internships all the way to the corporate boardrooms. But we are not, and that needs to change.”

Hispanic representation on corporate boards by participating companies increased from 6.46% in 2010 to 8.33% in 2011. But the percentage of C-Suite Hispanics decreased from 8% in 2010 to 7% in 2011. Ota noted that participating companies generally improved their ratings, as well as improved the quality of reporting. But, he said, “the results still pointed out the gap between our goals for diversity and inclusion and what is really taking place inside Corporate America.”

Diversity, Ethnicity/Nationality, Gender

Increasing the Representation of Multicultural Women in Leadership


By Melissa J. Anderson

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, business writer Roger O. Crockett wrote that when it comes to the corporate space, women of color are “woefully underrepresented in leadership.”

Citing Andrea Jung’s recent departure from Avon, Crockett explained that there are now only two women of color chief executives in the Fortune 500 (Pepsico’s Indra Nooyi and Xerox’s Ursula Burns).

In fact, Catalyst recently released its 2011 Census of Fortune 500 Board Directors, Executive Officers, and Top Earners, which showed that women make up only a small percentage of corporate leadership. While the Census did not track executive officers or top earners by ethnicity, it did record the ethnicity of board directors.

And the numbers were hard to swallow. On average, women made up 16.1% of Fortune 500 boards. But women of color occupied only 3% of director seats. And that could be costly for corporations looking to grow and innovate.