Promoting Diversity in Management

Holly J. Culhane SPHR
March 25, 2008 — 1,742 views  
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If you are old enough to remember the debut of the original Star Trek series in 1966, you probably remember viewing in amazement the diverse crew of the Starship Enterprise. Although the captain (Captain Kirk) was a white male, many of the other officers were not; they included a Black female, an Asian, and even a half-human/half-Vulcan. Today, we are used to viewing television series with diverse casts – but in the 1960s it was a novel idea. For those of you having trouble relating to this, Star Trek was ahead of its time in other ways, as well. Believe it or not, those of us that watched the crew members walk up to a door that automatically opened as they approached gazed in wonder at such a marvel (automatic door sensors were unheard of then in the general public). Of course, now we are likely to bump our noses at the grocery store if the sensors fail to operate properly because we have become so familiar with the devices. It is no longer a marvel, it is commonplace and we accept it without even giving it a second thought. We’ve come a long way in accepting diversity in our communities and in our workplaces since the 1960s – but we obviously still have some ground to cover. Research shows that females and minorities still lag behind in management jobs, compared to white males. For example, while women comprise 45 percent of the workforce, fewer than 15 percent of females are Fortune 500 officers. (Yes, the glass ceiling does still exist, although, it is becoming a bit weaker.) So, just how do you monitor your diversity programs to ensure equal opportunities for all employees? HR Magazine has done several studies on this issue over the years and recommends several areas to evaluate when monitoring your company policies. First of all, check to see that both women and minorities receive a fair share of promotions, especially into senior-management jobs. In order for this to happen, make sure that these groups are reporting to senior managers in equitable numbers on an on-going basis. Next, evaluate your job assignments and include minority groups in positions that provide a career path and areas for learning and growth. Offer training workshops and other development paths into management to under-represented groups in your organization. Also, carefully examine turnover rates for managers; if these rates are higher for women and minorities, you may have a problem that needs investigating. Most importantly, scrutinize these issues on a regular basis and, if something appears amiss, immediately check into it and correct the problem. Simply monitoring and noting the issues will not fix them; you must address them quickly and find a solution. Business leader, Sheryl Barbich, owner of Barbich Consulting based in Bakersfield, California, explains, “Diversity in the workplace, or any organization, especially in senior, decision-making positions, is a critical element for long-term success, and even survival. Since the best decisions are made through real discussion among decision-makers, diversity at this level has the benefit of bringing diverse educational, cultural, economic, and social experiences to the decision making process leading to a more solid result.” Although we are slowly accepting more diversity in our culture, especially in management positions, it has still not become commonplace. This is obvious when we look at the news reports. While it is encouraging that in our current presidential race we see included in the field of candidates a woman, a Black man, and a Hispanic male, it is painfully obvious that part of the “news” is the gender/ethnicity of these people and not just the merits of their accomplishments. Another recent development was this year’s Super Bowl which, for the first time, included – not one, but two – African-American head football coaches. This is truly remarkable as never in the history of the National Football League (NFL) had even one Black coach made it to the final game. Much has been written about this phenomenon, including the fact that although the majority of players in the NFL were people of color, African-American coaches were traditionally passed over for the job of head coach. It had been slow-going to get to the point where several of the franchises now have Blacks at the head of the coaching staff. However, both coaches were extremely gracious and repeatedly remarked they were very proud to represent their race, but felt the focus should be on their skill and accomplishments as coaches, and the talent and success of their teams, not their individual ethnicity. Luckily, we didn’t have to hear speculation about whether an “African-American” coach could “win the big one.” That was a foregone conclusion and the day of the conference championship games everyone knew the answer to that question was a resounding, “Yes!” As Baltimore Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney put it, “I’m happy for both coaches, but I hope we get to the point we don’t have to hear about it.” He was expressing the idea that it’s unfortunate that it was such a novelty that it became a source of news that should have centered around the franchises, not the heritage of the coaches. We are headed in the right direction. Let’s hope that management-diversity becomes such a part of everyday life that we take no more notice of it than the door opening automatically for us at the supermarket.

Holly J. Culhane SPHR

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Identified the need for human resource and organizational assistance for small- and medium-sized business­es and formed Profes­sional Administra­tive Systems in 1987. Now known as P A S Associates, this firm combines specialists in the fields of human resources, labor and employment law, affirma­tive action, and substance abuse policies and education, providing an unsurpassed Human Resource Center.