Intentional Efforts Advance Women of Color

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR May 27, 2011
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Companies that hold managers accountable for recruiting, retaining and promoting multicultural women are more likely to see results from their efforts, as evidenced by the 23 winners of Working Mother Media’s 2011 Best Companies for Multicultural Women award, announced May 24, 2011.

The top five winners—Cisco, Deloitte, General Mills, IBM and Procter & Gamble—employ a variety of strategies to advance multicultural women in their organizations, including:

  • Job shadowing opportunities for cross-functional exposure.
  • Career counseling and guidance by senior leaders on what it takes to advance, including help orchestrating career plans and gaining access to key assignments.
  • Executive diversity groups to increase knowledge of inclusive workplace practices.
  • Regional conferences to attract female professionals and underrepresented people of color.

PepsiCo, a five-time honoree, bridges the gap between mentor and mentee with a program called PowerPairs, which matches women of color with managers, typically white males, so that they can discuss goals, expectations and thinking styles openly.

Effective and Flexible Workplaces

Practices of six of the Best Companies for Multicultural Women—Cisco, Deloitte, General Mills, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and State Farm Insurance—are highlighted in the 2011 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work, published by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Companies included in the guide are 2009 and 2010 winners of the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.

Employees of Cisco Systems Inc. are most likely to cite flexibility as a key positive attribute about working for the company. Approximately 90 percent of its worldwide workforce has access to one or more flexible work options, including telecommuting, flextime and part-time work. And Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization program allows employees to customize a career path based on factors such as workload and schedule so it aligns with their personal and professional priorities.

Flexible workplaces benefit all workers but can be especially attractive to women.

During a keynote speech at the 2011 SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference on March 15, Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, said: “It is impossible to be productive at work when you worry about child care.

“Flexibility not only made me a good mom but a far better employee,” she added.

That fit—of the needs of the employee and the needs of the business—is particularly important, noted Ellen Galinsky, president of FWI. “If you think that this is one of those nice things to do for overstressed employees, you’re wrong,” she said in the guide’s introduction. “This is the next revolution in boosting productivity, because empowering people to do their best at all stages of their lives, regardless of their industry, background or culture, leads to innovation, a higher quality of work, more employee commitment and, yes, higher productivity.”

Thus, the Sloan awards honor organizations that use workplace flexibility as a strategy to make work better—for the employer and the employee.

Best Companies for Multicultural Women List

Many of the companies recognized by Working Mother magazine, which include more than 2.6 million employees at over 44,000 worksites nationwide, have several strategies in common:

  • Ninety-one percent base manager performance ratings partially on diversity issues.
  • Forty percent link multicultural women’s advancement to managerial compensation.
  • Eighty-seven percent offer programs to help multicultural women chart a course of action within the company culture.
  • Sixty-one percent offer career counseling specifically for women of color.

The alphabetical list:

  • Allstate Insurance, Northbrook, Ill.
  • American Express, New York City.
  • CA Technologies, Islandia, N.Y.
  • Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Warren, N.J.
  • Cisco, San Jose, Calif.
  • Citi, New York City.
  • Colgate-Palmolive, New York City.
  • Deloitte, New York City.
  • General Mills, Minneapolis.
  • Goldman Sachs, New York City.
  • IBM, Armonk, N.Y.
  • JPMorgan Chase, New York City.
  • KPMG, New York City.
  • Macy’s Inc., Cincinnati.
  • McDonald’s USA, Oak Brook, Ill.
  • New York Life Insurance, New York City.
  • PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York City.
  • Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati.
  • Sodexo, Gaithersburg, Md.
  • State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill.
  • Verizon Communications, New York City.
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.

First-time honorees include CA Technologies, Macy’s and New York Life Insurance.

Veteran honorees include:

  • American Express and IBM (nine years each).
  • Allstate Insurance and General Mills (eight years each).
  • JPMorgan Chase and PricewaterhouseCoopers (seven years each).
  • Deloitte, Procter & Gamble and Verizon Communications (six years each).
  • PepsiCo, Citi and Wal-Mart (five years each).

To be considered for Best Companies for Multicultural Women, companies must apply and supply Working Mother with 2010 data about the hiring, pay and promotion of multicultural employees. The application focused on representation of multicultural women, recruitment, retention, advancement and company culture. An independent survey research firm tabulates the scores.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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