Appendix C Corporate Benchmarks
In preparation for the workshop on Best Practices in Managing Diversity, the NAE Committee on Diversity in the Engineering Workforce compiled a list of 71 companies that employ significant numbers of engineers and have been recognized for their handling of diversity issues in the workplace. All of these organizations either appeared in the Fortune list of the top 50 companies for minorities or the Working Woman list of the best companies for women, have been recognized by Catalyst or the Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network for their diversity programs, are represented on the Board of Directors of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, or were recommended by a member of the committee.
Two UCLA students, Jill Bernardy and Jennifer Sommers, under the direction of committee member David Porter, collected available information about these companies’ diversity management practices as benchmarks for the workshop participants. The information was collected from the World Wide Web and analyst’s reports, supplemented by phone calls to the companies. Follow up phone calls were made by Professor Porter’s research assistant Gina Kong to verify the accuracy of the information for each company. This data provided a starting point for discussions of diversity issues in the workplace.
The information was organized around the three stages of diversity program development described by David Thomas and Robin Ely in their article, “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity” (Harvard Business Review 74(5): 79–90). The three stages are described as (1) discrimination and fairness, (2) access and legitimacy, and (3) learning and effectiveness.
The discrimination and fairness paradigm focuses on equal opportunity, fair treatment, and compliance with legal requirements. The emphasis in this stage is
on respecting differences and treating all employees equally but not on encouraging employees to apply their personal perspectives to their work. Programs at this stage seem to operate on the assumption that everyone is fundamentally the same.
The access and legitimacy paradigm recognizes and celebrates differences as a competitive advantage in reaching new markets. Companies operating under this paradigm are faced with increasing diversity among their customers, clients, or labor pool, and thus see diversity as a business opportunity or threat. This approach can lead to employees being pigeonholed into career paths that serve a particular market but do not lead to advancement in the company’s mainstream operations.
Companies that go beyond the access and legitimacy paradigm to the learning and effectiveness paradigm begin to connect diversity to work perspectives. Companies with programs at the learning and effectiveness stage incorporate diverse outlooks of their employees into their work and take advantage of employees’ different points of view to rethink and redesign their products and processes. More than just treating everyone fairly and celebrating differences, organizations operating under the learning and effectiveness paradigm are able to apply diverse perspectives to their fundamental business operations and improve performance.
The accompanying tables presents the diversity practices of the 71 companies classified into Thomas and Ely’s three stages of diversity program development.