VOICES FROM THE FIELD A PANEL DISCUSSION



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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future VOICES FROM THE FIELD A PANEL DISCUSSION

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future This page in the original is blank.

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future National Society of Black Engineers MICHELE LEZAMA Executive Director National Society of Black Engineers As the executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), I was very happy to be invited to speak on this topic. A unique aspect of NSBE is that we are a student-run organization, so I can give you a true perspective on what my students think about diversity in the workplace. Every March we hold our national convention. For those of you who have not been to an NSBE convention, I invite you to attend. It is a fantastic event, attended by more than 8,000 African-American students who are currently enrolled in engineering curricula. The convention includes roundtables and best-practice discussions, as well as career fairs. It is a great opportunity to see how your workplace practices are perceived by and influence the current student population. At the national convention, we give the students a survey called the “NSBE 50,” asking them where they want to work, why they want to work there, what works for them, why they are thinking about working at this place, and general questions about what they think and the relevant factors in picking a place to work. The NSBE 50 survey, conducted by Bowling Green State University, is statistically significant, and every year we present the results to our Board of Corporate Affiliates, our premier sponsor group. Last year, the conference was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. A total of 2,480 people participated in the survey, including 26 percent of the convention attendees and 23 percent of the NSBE membership. Responses were generally representative of the entire NSBE student membership in terms of gender, age distribution, et cetera. The overall question was for what companies in America would students most like to work. Table 1 shows the results for 2001. Respondents were also asked why they did not want to work for their last choice (Table 2). Atmosphere,

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future TABLE 1 2001 NSBE Top 50 Employers 1. IBM Corporation 2. Microsoft 3. General Motors 4. Motorola 5. Accenture 6. Ford Motor Company 7. General Electric 8. Intel 9. Johnson &Johnson 10. Lucent Technologies 11. NASA 12. Lockheed Martin 13. Cisco Systems 14. Merck &Company 15. Hewlett-Packard 16. Procter &Gamble 17. Texas Instruments 18. The Boeing Company 19. AT&T 20. Sony Electronics 21. ExxonMobil 22. Goldman,Sachs (+) 23. Verizon 24. Corning (+) 25. Dell Computers (+) 26. Disney/Imagineering 27. Dow Chemical Company 28. 3M Company 29. Raytheon 30. Nortel Networks 31. Honda of America (+) 32. Du Pont Company 33. Coca Cola 34. Nokia 35. Eli Lilly & Company 36. Kraft Foods (+) 37. Nike 38. Delphi Automotive 39. DaimlerChrysler 40. FBI 41. Abbott Laboratories 42. Agilent Technologies (+) 43. Bell South (+) 44. General Mills(+) 45. 3Com Corporation (+) 46. Merrill Lynch 47. Kimberly-Clark 48. CIA 49. Texaco (+) 50. Medtronic (+) Bold = new to the NSBE top 50 employers. (+) = moved up at least 10 places since last year. Source: Bachiosi, P. 2001. NSBE 50 2001: mix of optimism and caution. NSBE Magazine 13(1):33. corporate culture, and diversity were identified as the fourth most important criterion for why students would not want to work at a particular company. Diversity is truly relevant to students’ decisions. Companies identified in the NSBE top 50 rated highly on campus visibility, marketplace visibility, diversity programs, and concern for the environment. Clearly, diversity is on the minds of students thinking about where they want to work. Salary becomes a more significant factor for students as they get older. It was more important to seniors than to freshmen and sophomores. Underclass-men were more concerned about the recruiter’s technical knowledge, name recognition, and other visibility factors. The significant factors for choosing a particular company are shown in Figure 1. The importance of diversity programs remained constant from 2000 to 2001; an average of 80.5 percent of respondents rated diversity programs as very important or extremely important. Advancement opportunities was the most important factor, followed by job security, interesting work, training opportunities, and work/life balance. The diversity program was one of the six most important factors. The relationship with the black community is also very important, not so much the race of the recruiter, but how much the company is involved in the community and how many blacks are in management, in higher level, visible positions, not just in entry level positions.

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future TABLE 2 Why Students Do Not Want to Work for Certain Employers Type of industry/product; consistent with interests/major; interesting work; type of work 21%* Knowledge about company; like the company; quality of product 14% Government/military/security clearance 10% Atmosphere; corporate culture; diversity 7% Stability/job security; success of company 7% Reputation; visibility; size of company 3% Career advancement/development; personal growth 2% Impressions based on a company presenter or recruiter 2% Accidents/safety 1% Diversified company; innovation/technology 1% Moral issues 1% Personal experience; work(ed) there; internship/co-op 1% Salary; benefits; location 1% Miscellaneous 4% *NOTE: Percentages of those giving a reason. 27 percent did not give a reason. Later on in the survey, we asked about the importance of recruiting criteria. Where should companies focus to improve their recruiting? The results of the survey (Figure 2) indicate that companies should focus more on the recruiter’s knowledge of the position to be filled. Only 28 percent of the respondents rated the race of the recruiter as very important or extremely important, whereas 88 percent rated position knowledge as very important or extremely important. When you send a recruiter out to recruit a minority candidate, the recruiter should have specific knowledge of the position. The black students at the NSBE conference felt that knowledge of the position, what they would experience when they got to the workplace, what type of job they would have, and what their day-to-day functions would be was a lot more important than the skin color of the person talking to them. They really wanted to speak to someone who knew a lot about the job. Perceptions of importance vary from freshmen to seniors, and the survey compared freshman and senior responses. As a student advances through the college program, concerns about where they will work and the reasons for selecting an employer change. Factors that become increasingly important are: the number of blacks in management; innovation; diversity programs; interesting and challenging work; and response time after the interview. Factors that become less important include: co-ops and internships (for obvious reasons), and scholarship programs, which become less important as students approach graduation. Every year, we have a special category of issues relevant for that particular year. This year’s topic was racism, affirmative action compared to diversity plans. Our recruiting companies want to know if it makes a difference to a black student whether their recruiting materials focus on affirmative action, using

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future FIGURE 1 Employer selection criteria. Percentage indicating very important or extremely important. those words, or on diversity. The survey results indicated that the students don’t differentiate between affirmative action programs and diversity programs. However, the survey responses indicated that the students did view preferential treatment and special training programs negatively. If a company has a program just for black students or just for minority students, the students view it as a negative. Based on the survey, we make recommendations to our corporate partners about what they should consider in their recruitment practices to attract our students. Company visibility is key, getting the company name out there, as well as information about the company’s involvement in the black community. The students suggested that companies do this via participation in career fairs. Other mechanisms for increasing company visibility include sponsoring organizations

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Diversity in Engineering: Managing the Workforce of the Future FIGURE 2 Recruiting criteria. Percentage indicating very important or extremely important. relevant to students’ needs, keeping the company Web page current, and contacting students directly by e-mail. Companies should recognize the importance of a recruiter’s characteristics, such as accessibility, responsiveness, and knowledge. Knowledge was considered the most important throughout the survey, not the color of the recruiter’s skin but how much he or she knew about the company and the experiences the students would have in the workplace. Students were looking for diverse opportunities in the workplace rather than diversity per se. They want to know if they’re going to be stuck in the same position or if they’ll have the opportunity to learn and grow once they are in the workplace. Internships and co-op experiences are also effective recruiting tools. Overall, NSBE students indicated that, if they had a chance to work at a company and experience it for themselves before graduation, they would be more likely to want to work there. We also asked students whether the Internet was an effective recruiting tool and if face-to-face relationships were still necessary. The students felt that the Internet was definitely helpful in recruiting, but that face-to-face interaction is still very important. The last point that stands out in the survey results is that companies should avoid using language that suggests preferential treatment in recruiting materials. Students view preferential treatment based on race negatively. We publish complete survey results in a national magazine, called NSBE Magazine, which is published five times a year, every two months during the school year. We also publish a high school magazine, called the NSBE Bridge, to encourage minority youth interested in math and science to go into engineering. These publications are good vehicles for getting your message directly to students.