5 Ways Companies Make Multicultural Women a Priority

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek May 29, 2018

The organizations on Working Mother magazine's 2018 list of the 25 "Best Companies for Multicultural Women" are making efforts to recruit, promote and retain black, Hispanic and Asian-American women, but there is still much work to be done.

Women of color rarely reach the highest levels of an organization. Multicultural women make up 4 percent of all corporate executives on the magazine's list of top companies. Among those women, 1 percent are black, 1 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Asian, while 24 percent of the executives on the list are white women, according to the magazine. There are no Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women or Native American/Alaska Native women at the corporate level.

Despite what seems like glacier-like progress, companies on the list have made hiring, developing, paying fairly and promoting women of color priorities at their organizations.

The magazine's rankings are based on answers to a questionnaire for companies with at least 500 U.S. employees. Working Mother considered inclusive hiring practices for women, mentoring and sponsoring programs, career counseling, the percentage of multicultural women who are among top earners at their organizations, and the percentage of whom have reached the senior-manager level. Below are examples of some policies and programs top companies are using to recruit, promote and retain women of color. 

1.     Inclusive Hiring 

A majority of the companies on the list (96 percent) have recruiting programs that target black and Hispanic women; 88 percent have recruiting programs targeting Asian-American women. Ten companies on the list require a diverse slate of job candidates when seeking to fill positions. At Bon Secours Health System, based in Marriottsville, Md., for example, all openings for director positions and above must include at least one person of color in the group of viable candidates.

At 18 companies, if a slate does not include women of color, recruiters must explain why.

OppenheimerFunds' Diversity Ambassador Recruiting Program trains employees to recruit multicultural individuals. Detroit-based General Motors has partnered with Zeta Phi Beta sorority to recruit black women. Hiring managers and internal recruiters at Walmart receive training in unconscious bias and interviewing candidates of color.

"If you want more multicultural women hired, you need to have more men and women who are multicultural doing the interviewing," said Subha Barry, senior vice president and managing director of Working Mother Media in New York City. "The same is true for sponsorship. That is the part that many best companies are starting to pay attention to." 

2.     Mentorships and Sponsorships 

Mentors provide encouragement, feedback and guidance and can be found at different levels of the organization. Sponsors are people at senior levels who can open career doors with promotions and high-visibility assignments. Having male allies who are leaders at work gives a significant boost to multicultural women's careers, according to a 2017 report from the Working Mother Research Institute. 

Working Mother found that among the companies on its list, 31 percent of women of color participate in formal mentoring. That percentage varies among major racial and ethnic groups, with Asian women at 39 percent, black women at 21 percent and Hispanic women at 17 percent. Among white women, 37 percent have a mentor.

People who mentor others from a different culture, Barry said, need to have an understanding of that culture. Understanding each other goes both ways, she noted, but in diversity and inclusion work, "we always put the onus on the person without the privilege of power, privilege of presence, privilege of competence."

Sponsorship participation is lower: 5 percent of Asian women, 6 percent of black women and 4 percent of Hispanic women. Among white women, 9 percent have a sponsor.

Evelyn Orr, vice president and chief operating officer at the Korn Ferry Institute, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, said a sponsorship is a mutual commitment.

"You can't just assign sponsors to the women," she said at the recent American Express Global Conference for Women in New York City, where she co-presented findings on female CEOs. "A sponsor has to be in the room of power … to shine the spotlight" on the sponsoree.

3.     Career Counseling 

While mentoring and sponsorship are for individual employees, career counseling takes a broader approach, Barry explained.

"It allows companies to educate more broadly on the various opportunities available in the organization, and the pathways to them."

A higher percentage of women at companies on Working Mother's list participate in career counseling than mentoring and sponsorship with their employers: 88 percent of white women, 83 percent of black women, 84 percent of Latinas and 78 percent of Asian-American women.

At Accenture, senior black and Hispanic employees can use the new Managing Director Planning for Success Forum to create personal action plans and connect with sponsors.

Morgan Stanley in New York City has a Leadership Engagement and Development Program that gives focused career development opportunities to high-potential black and Hispanic executive directors and vice presidents in its North America offices.

And ADP, based in Roseland, N.J., designed a Multicultural Leadership Development Program to make career opportunities available to diverse members of its staff.  

4.     Top Earners 

The best companies conduct pay audits to look for wage disparities, ban salary history questions from recruitment and hiring processes, and find ways to remove bias during hiring, Barry said.

The percentage of multicultural women who are in the top 20 percent of earners at their organizations is still low and growing very slowly. Among all women of color, that number edged up 2 percentage points to 19 percent in 2018 from 17 percent in 2017 and 2016. Among black women, 8 percent are in the top 20 percent, Latinas make up 6 percent and Asian women 3 percent. White women make up about 30 percent.

5.     Promotion Progress 

The percentage of multicultural women serving as senior managers is low, although growing. Only 5 percent of women of color were at the senior manager level in 2009; that has grown to 9 percent. At the manager level, percentages have remained at 14 percent the last seven years. 

Companies on the 2018 Best Companies list, though, are making efforts to promote women of color. At CA Technologies in New York City, for example, 13 percent of its senior-level hires in 2016 were multicultural women.

New York City-based JPMorgan Chase has an Advancing Black Leaders program to increase the number of multicultural female executives and mid-level managers.

KPMG, also in New York, created African-American Mentoring Circles that have group mentoring discussions with senior leaders. 


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