First and foremost, diversity is valuing our uniqueness. It has already been pointed out in this workshop that diversity is not just defined in terms of race or ethnicity, but also should be extended to reflect other measures of difference, including sex, age, nationality, cultural heritage, sexual orientation, etc. As I prepared for this presentation, it was unclear to me what the workshop organizers had in mind as they used the term “diversity” in setting today’s agenda. I cannot possibly address all measures of diversity, due to time constraints, but instead chose to focus on a few of the more common topics, namely, race and sex. However, I want to assure the audience that we at P&G view diversity in its broadest sense and work very hard to value all of its components.
Diversity is also a matter of ethics. It is “doing the right thing.” A diverse workforce is proof positive that the organization respects the individual, providing equal opportunity to all for personal growth and development. A diverse workforce is also an outward indication that all individuals in the organization value diversity. If this were not the case, if diversity was only important to top management, then their majority peers would not make minorities welcome, and lack of retention would be an expected outcome. Respecting diversity yields cultural inclusion, and inclusion provides a positive environment for minorities to feel welcome.
Last, but of equal importance, diversity is a fundamental business strategy for success. Why? P&G markets consumer products globally, and thus we have to understand the needs of very diverse customers. A monoculture of white males cannot have all the answers to all questions. However, by building a diverse workforce, we will better understand such consumer needs, understand them more quickly than our competition, and thereby build and maintain a critically important competitive edge.
Valuing diversity is today an essential component of building a world-class, global organization at P&G. I recognize that this may sound like a company line, but let me expand on this theme. P&G has a set of core values, with “people” lying at the heart of this core. Thus, other values, such as leadership, trust, integrity, etc., must be seen as secondary. Valuing people first is clearly a natural springboard to valuing diversity
With this as a backdrop, when people are your most important asset, I submit that it is much easier to bring about a cultural change and develop a more diverse workforce when such a workforce may not currently exist. This also fits well with other cultural goals, such as “hiring the test” and “promote from within.” By attracting the best applicants, regardless of majority or minority status, and giving them equal access to higher level positions, we build upon any hiring successes we may have and turn them into retention successes. I will come back to retention issues shortly.
I now want to build on a theme highlighted by previous speakers, namely that commitment to diversity must begin at the top. This was essential to the diversity success seen most recently at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Dr. Freeman Hrabowski), and at Louisiana State University (LSU) (Dr. Isiah Warner). The message is clear. You have to have someone at the top truly believe that building diversity is the right thing to do, and then see to it that it happens. Leaders must marshal the forces to make change and be consistent in their demand for change to take place. It cannot be an “on again, off again” program, but one of sustained advocacy. In other words, if there is no incentive to change, then change is unlikely to happen.
We are fortunate at P&G, in that building diversity has been the commitment of our top corporate officers for decades. Today, our president and CEO, Mr. A. G. Lafley, recently summed this up by