Address Barriers to Diversity with Transparency, Employee Resource Groups

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek September 20, 2016

​U.S.-based organizations in the technology sector looking to gain and keep a competitive edge need to be cognizant of the growing Hispanic population as both potential consumers and employees.

That was among the messages during a panel discussion at the recently concluded Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) conference in Washington, D.C.

"If employees look more like their consumer base ... [companies are] going to be better situated for new business opportunities," said Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and CHCI chair. Sanchez, who kicked off the Sept. 13 keynote discussion, was born to immigrant parents from Mexico. "We are the consumers of the future. Latinos are one of the biggest users of smartphones and tablets," she said.

For Google, for example, "it's not just a work pipeline issue. We want to connect with the markets we serve," said Daisy Auger-Dominguez, global head of diversity staffing at the company. It requires a holistic vision of diversity and inclusion, embracing women as well as veterans, the LGBT community and other minorities, she noted.

In an experiment launched in 2014, Google subjected 25,000 employees to mock scenarios of workplace discrimination to raise awareness of unconscious bias. The tech giant also is publishing its numbers, such as its use of women-owned and minority-owned vendors, its political party spending, and its hiring demographics, Auger-Dominguez said.

"Once you start to have transparency, you have accountability," she said. "This [D&I] work is permeating ... the way we look at workplace structures" at Google, including who is hired, who is promoted and "even who speaks at a meeting."

D&I efforts require commitment from the top level of an organization, including its board, and should be tied to the bottom line, said Imelda Castro, director of Technology Manufacturing Group Training at Intel Corp. She also chairs the Hispanic Leadership Council at Intel.
"It's not just about the entry-level talent," Auger-Dominguez said. "You can't be what you can't see. We're not just bringing [diverse employees] in; we're making sure they're thriving when they're here" at Google.

Organizations must distinguish between diversity and inclusion, Castro pointed out.

"Diversity is like being invited to the dance," she said. "Inclusion is being asked to dance."

Emilio Gonzalez, executive director of strategic alliances at Verizon, advised employers to require everyone with hiring authority to attend training on unconscious bias.

"When we recruit, we go to Stanford, MIT, Harvard, but we also go to [other educational] institutions," such as in New Mexico, which has a large Hispanic population. About 40 percent of Verizon's 180,000 employees are minorities and 37 percent are women, according to Gonzalez.

Strategies to improve D&I include mentoring and sponsorship.

Sponsorship is one of the critical pieces rarely addressed, Auger-Dominguez said. As described in an Oct. 2, 2015, Forbes article, a mentor offers guidance and advice while a sponsor advocates for someone in the workplace when that person and his or her work needs to be more visible.

Mentoring should happen at every stage of a person's career, she said.

Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are another tool for fostering diversity, including in the technology sector, according to panelists at a session that followed the keynote.

An ERG at the Phoenix, Ariz.-based Salt River Project (SRP), one of the nation's largest public power utilities, worked with a local school to raise more than $15,000 for the school's band, which otherwise would have been shuttered.

The salsa challenge has become one of SRP's largest annual events, said Tony Moya, manager of SRP's Latino relations department. By contributing to the community, he said, SRP has extended its brand and developed a valuable recruitment tool.

T-Mobile uses ERGs as part of its job referral program to increase its diversity efforts, according to Holli Martinez, senior director, head of diversity and inclusion, at the company.

"We have a renewed drive for developing our pipeline" of employees, she said. The company tracks referrals that result in filled positions, while the ERG with the most successful referrals receives additional funding.

Rule No. 1 in forming ERGs is to listen, she said. One way to do this is through focus groups with the organization's employees. At one time, T-Mobile's ERGs were all located at the company's Bellevue, Wash.-based headquarters.

However, Bellevue does not represent everyone at the company, she pointed out, and the company decentralized its ERGs to rectify that. The ERGs decide what issues are important to them. "We have to challenge ourselves on a daily basis to think from the perspective of our entire workforce,"

Each ERG has an executive sponsor, who is responsible for guiding the group and reporting to the company leadership quarterly. All ERG leaders meet twice yearly to review the company's inclusion strategy. Additionally, ERGs have "chapters" at each of T-Mobile's locations, such as call centers, and sales regions.

"The local ownership [of ERGs] has worked for our model ... to make sure they're addressing the needs of those individuals," Martinez said. 



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