Category Archives: diversity

Setting a Strategy for Transgender Employees

Transitioning transgender employees. It’s a conundrum. And there’s a whole lot to consider. Such was the message Tuesday at the annual ThinkstockPhotos-531246420SHRM conference, in a workshop titled “Intel’s Strategy to Support Transgender Employees.”

Speaking were Eva Breslin, HR legal representative for Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho, N.M., and Keith Epstein, HR legal representative in the company’s Hillsboro, Ore., office.

In careful, thorough detail, they laid out all the impacts and ramifications Intel faced, which led to a comprehensive transgender strategy the company set in stone a couple years ago. After one male employee came running to Intel’s HR department complaining that a (transgendered) female was using the men’s room … it had to be done, they said.

Presenting three of their own Intel case studies — a female-identifying male who wanted to send out his transition story in a detailed email, a devout Christian who came to HR deeply hurt and offended by one employee’s change, and a transitioning male-to-female who was ready to leave work Friday and show up Monday as a woman — they discussed what went into Intel’s response to each in hopes it might help other employers (and audience members) facing similar challenges.

In those three cases, considerations included, respectively, the potential dissemination of personal medical information in the email that had to be thwarted and reworked, the need to fully explain and perhaps  enforce the new policy to the religious employee, and the need to step back and develop a cogent transition plan that would last far more than one weekend.

“How you deal with this is extremely important, and can save considerable time and expense,” said Epstein. Before the Intel strategy was adopted, for instance, “every time people were coming to us with a problem or concern, we had to start anew” with discussions and a plan, he said.

So the company established a team that included business HR, HR legal, members of the transgender community and others to put everything in writing, and on the company website.

From that point forward, all employees have been free to use whichever bathroom they prefer, in keeping with the gender they identify with. The company’s values and guidelines in the handling of benefits, name changes, back-office document changes and every other change that must be made are all laid out in black and white for all to see.

Steps for notifying managers and HR ahead of time, so every transitioning employee gets the support and respect he or she needs and deserves, are also detailed now.

“In one early case of ours,” said Breslin, “a manager was completely shocked and speechless for the entire day when an employee came in as a female after leaving the night before as a male. Clearly, everyone involved would have benefited from prior notification.”

Setting up an organization’s communication plan for transitioning transgenders is a complicated and sensitive process, and the ultimate goal should always be to avoid surprises, she said. Does a particular manager need guidance before meeting with employees to announce the change? Who will communicate it, the transitioning employee or the manager? Would the employee like to write a letter to his or her team instead? And should he or she read it and be there for the reaction, or should the manager go it alone, with that employee absent?

How all these issues are handled should be up to the discretion of each and every organization, said Breslin, but it’s imperative that all are addressed to “set the stage for how everyone will feel and might react.”

“It can also help avoid devastating outcomes,” she said.

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EEOC Spotlights Diversity in Tech

A unusual forum held in the nation’s capital last week signals growing regulatory interest in the technology industry’s hiring and promotion practices.

ThinkstockPhotos-524374920The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held the May 18 meeting about diversity in the industry as it released a report confirming what everyone already knows: tech is mostly white, male and young.

Does the hearing suggest the EEOC may soon come down on tech employers with formal guidance or even enforcement action? Labor lawyers say no — at least for now.

“I think the EEOC’s goal is to keep the issue in the spotlight,” says Erin M. Connell, a partner and employment lawyer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in San Francisco who testified at the forum.

The effort continues a campaign by civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson to pressure tech companies to become more diverse — and transparent — in employment, she notes.

Industry leaders “are hitting this at all levels,” says Connell, who counts many technology companies as clients. “They want to improve their numbers — because of the public pressure, because of the moral imperative … and because there’s a business case for diversity.”

Research has shown that “companies with higher diversity have better business results,” Connell says. This is particularly true when they serve — as tech companies do — a diverse population of customers.

The EEOC report looked at diversity data for the industry nationally as well as in Silicon Valley. It finds that whites account for 69 percent of the U.S. tech workforce, compared to 63 percent in all private employment. Among executives and managers in tech, 83 percent are white.

All employees Executives and managers
Tech All industries Tech All industries
White 69% 63% 83% 87%
Asian 14% 6% 11% 5%
Hispanic 8% 14% 3% 4%
Black 7% 14% 2% 3%
Other 2% 3% 1% 1%
Men 64% 52% 80% 71%
Women 36% 48% 20% 29%
Source: EEOC

Asian Americans also are overrepresented, compared to their share of all private employment. About 14 percent of tech employees, and 11 percent of tech managers and executives, are Asian American. That compares to 6 percent of workers across all industries.

Hispanic and black workers are, as a result, underrepresented in tech, often dramatically. And so are women: They account for 36 percent of all tech workers and 20 percent of executives and managers in tech, compared to nearly half of all jobs in private industry.

Though the report did not break down workers by age, another panelist at last week’s forum offered a scorching appraisal of the role age bias plays in the industry.

“Job postings declaring a preference for new or recent graduates are common, and some companies have actually specified which graduating class they are seeking,” said Laurie McCann, a senior attorney with the AARP Foundation, according to an EEOC news release.

Panelists didn’t necessarily agree about the best strategy for the industry to diversify. Some who testified put an emphasis on reform of industry hiring and funding practices. A cloistered world of CEOs and venture capitalists who look and think like each other perpetuates the problem, some argued. Greater emphasis on techniques to minimize unconscious hiring bias could help, they said.

Connell and others argued that improved educational opportunities are key, including industry-sponsored tech boot camps for girls and minority youth. Closing the gap in employment requires enlarging the pipeline of young people interested in the industry, she says.

In any case, Connell says she sees no sign that the EEOC plans to do more than nudge the industry to improve.

“It’s never off the table — I don’t want to give any false comfort there,” Connell says. But “I did not get the sense that any enforcement mechanisms are on the horizon.”

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Commemorating Equal Pay Day

OK, so it may not be the most celebratory of occasions on the year’s calendar, but it is nonetheless well worth an HRE Daily post to acknowledge the persistent pay gap that has plagued women ever since joining the workforce many decades ago.

To that end, HREonline.com just posted a piece this morning titled “Pay Equity: New Challenges, New Pressures, New Strategies.” Written by Mercer’s Stefan Gaertner, Gail Greenfield and Brian Levine, the piece takes a look at the gender-pay landscape and what new challenges HR faces in ensuring a balance between the genders when it comes to pay:

More aggressive regulation for pay equity is clearly a trend. We believe this represents a stern call to action for employers to review their job and pay structures as well as analyze pay differentials to ensure that they understand their data, with a focus on pay gaps and business-related factors that may or may not explain them.

Employers also need to rectify any issues identified. We find that the all-too-common “wait and see” approach is not effective — once a plaintiff knocks on the door, it is too late to craft a story or actually address gaps in an orderly fashion.

Elsewhere in cyberspace, there’s an interesting piece on CNN.com titled “One Way to Close the Pay Gap for Women,” written by Mary Ellen Carter, an associate professor of accounting with the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, whose research focus is executive compensation.

In the piece, Carter argues that organizations can shrink or eliminate the gender-pay gap by including more women on corporate boards:

In new research, my co-authors and I found that pay gaps are much lower when more women serve on corporate boards.

For example, the proportion of female directors at the Massachusetts company TJX (parent of T.J. Maxx, Home Goods and other apparel and home goods retailers) has hovered around 30% since 2006.

And in our analyses, Carol Meyrowitz, who retired as TJX CEO in January, was paid fairly, relative to executives of comparable companies as she rose through the ranks.

TJX illustrates what our overall analyses show — that this effect flows deeper into the executive pool. Other top-level female executives, like chief financial officers, are also better paid when the board includes more women.

It’s true that there is no easy answer or silver bullet to create an even playing field in all respects, but here’s hoping by the time the next Equal Pay Day rolls around, more organizations will be working earnestly to ensure the compensation rates between men and women will be even closer than it is today.

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How Favoritism-Free Do You Really Want to Be?

Here’s an interesting question for you to ponder on Martin Luther King Day, posed in this piece by Simma Lieberman on the Workforce 478884006 -- hiring biasDiversity Network: “Before you spend your next dollar on unconscious-bias training, ask yourselves if you just want people to have a good day, [and] forget or not apply what they learn, or if you want ongoing change that will make you a benchmark organization and the employer of choice.”

Though she doesn’t exactly say the former is generally what happens in companies that espouse diversity transformations, it’s implied in her piece, How Can Unconscious Bias Training Go Wrong?

Basically, she says, if you really want to establish a meaningful and effective diversity and inclusion culture without favoritism, one that results in “breakthrough innovation, [you need to instill] transformation at every level, risk-taking and the willingness to be uncomfortable.”

And that starts at the top, she says: “The CEO and other people on the executive team need to be the first ones to learn about unconscious bias and how it impacts their leadership behavior. We have our clients take the Implicit Association Test from Harvard, to be aware of their own biases. Transformation begins at the top and doesn’t stop!”

In her helpful numbered list of ways to add value to unconscious-bias training, Lieberman also stresses the need to “involve and seek input from people who manage all levels of the recruiting process. They need to be aware of their unconscious bias in the whole hiring process from where and how they recruit, how they write the job description, how they conduct the interview, and ways in which they develop rapport,” she writes.

Which reminds me of a piece I posted last Martin Luther King Day,  “Favoritism is No Friend of Diversity.” In it, Kansas City Star writer Michelle T. Johnson gets at the heart of just how insidious and nebulous favoritism is among managers and HR leaders when they’re making personnel decisions:

“What does favoritism even look like? Favoritism is usually about choice. In some workplaces, the work and the people who do it don’t have much variance in how the work is done and who does it. However, in other workplaces, work decisions are made frequently — assignments, shifts, territories, days off. With most decisions come subjective judgments. Every industry and workplace is so different, yet everyone can probably relate to some area of the job that bosses influence [subjectively] at least weekly.

“People are quick to defend their decisions, saying they base them on the best person to do the job. But over time, what conditions have you created to allow, for example, one person to inevitably do the job better than another? And if that has happened, what is the reason? Is it that the person reminds you of yourself or has similar interests, or because the person has a personality you find easier to get along with?”

Dave Kipe, chief operating officer for New York-based ABCO HVACR Supply + Solutions, who describes himself as “passionate about leadership behavior and the impact it can have in our workplace and our lives,” got back to me after that favoritism post, underscoring the need for business leaders to be more “self-aware and conscious of their implicit behavior [and bias-tinged] body language.” He calls their failures in this regard a “pitfall many leaders fall into, but don’t even acknowledge exists.”

I reached out to him about Lieberman’s post as well, considering how closely intertwined unconscious bias and favoritism are. He had a lot to say:

“I think most of us have this inflated self-perception that we are unconditionally ethical and perfectly unbiased. We are confident in our decision-making abilities and proud that we are ‘great judges of people.’ However, research has shown that’s simply not true.

“In Lieberman’s case in point, the employees embraced the ‘unconscious bias’ training, but the company didn’t sustain that focus; therefore, nothing changed. Her point that ‘there is an unconscious — and sometimes conscious — bias that people at the lower levels don’t need to be involved or won’t understand the new culture’ really resonated with me. Company leaders must engage the entire organization and drop the narcissistic attitude that employees are just too dumb or too ignorant to understand.

“Unconscious bias in the workplace is seldom discussed, but it’s impact is deep and, if uncontrolled, it can be destructive. Training is a critical component of creating a culture of inclusion, but it’s money and time wasted if not supported by the organization.”

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Can Social Media Stop Harassment?

A front-page story in the Washington Post yesterday focused on a new app popular among school-age kids these days called After School. The app, designed by its makers to let students anonymously post about sensitive topics they wouldn’t otherwise be comfortable discussing, has become a platform for bullying in some cases, with students using it to taunt their classmates about their appearance and mannerisms.

dv1080014The episode has led to more hand-wringing about the pernicious effect of social media in our lives. But social media can also be a force for good, particularly in the workplace. Earlier this week, speakers at a panel held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explained how the medium can help alert organizations to incidents of harassment and discrimination that might otherwise go unreported.

Anne Johnson, executive director of Generation Progress of the Center for American Progress, told the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace about the “It’s On Us” campaign, which incorporates the use of social media to raise awareness of and change behaviors toward sexual assault. It includes information on recognizing sexual assault, intervening in situations before it occurs and creating an environment where such assault is unacceptable. Although It’s On Us has been primarily focused on college campuses, it can also be used for preventing workplace harassment, Johnson said.

Jess Kutch, co-founder of Coworker.org, told the panel about how the petition platform has been used to call attention to workplace harassment that wasn’t treated adequately through the usual channels. If, for example, a number of people post about sexual harassment by one particular supervisor or about multiple incidents at a single location, she said, other employees who’ve experienced the same thing can see that they’re not alone and may be spurred to take action.

The EEOC’s panel also included testimony from groups representing the disabled, Muslims, people who are LGBT and older Americans, all of whom said workplace harassment continues to persist and — particularly in the case of Muslim and transgender employees — is an especially topical concern. Current events have exacerbated the harassment potential for Muslim employees, said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Employees who are transitioning face severe harassment, often by coworkers who may mock them in front of customers, said Tara Borelli of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Considering that many incidents of harassment go unreported for any number of reasons, maybe it’s a good idea for HR professionals to consider social media as a potential “early alert” for things that would otherwise slip right under their radar.

 

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Accenture Boards the Gender-Equality Bandwagon

450744473 -- women business leaderAnother big company has thrown its hat into the gender-equality ring, this time with a very personal message to all of us from the company’s CEO.

In announcing his organization’s new commitment to grow the percentage of women it hires to at least 40 percent by 2017, Accenture Chairman and CEO Pierre Nanterme admits such a “commitment to inclusion and diversity starts at the top, and we empower all of our people — including our more than 130,000 women — to lead.”

In this video, Nanterme, makes the campaign highly personal by sharing his pride and feelings about his daughter, and her life and future.

Not only is Accenture making progress toward its hiring goal (in fiscal year 2015, ending Aug. 31, about 39 percent of the company’s more-than-100,000 new hires were women), it’s also stepping up processes to identify potential pay discrepancies, according to its public announcement about the initiative, “looking carefully at specific roles in each country [and being] proactive at all stages of an individual’s career.”

Gender equality has also been a key concern at Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker Intel. My latest post on that company’s efforts to build its ranks of minorities and women show some significant successes in the campaign since it was first announced in January by Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich.

Earlier, in May of 2014, Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, went public with his company’s diversity numbers in an effort not just to tout the transparency, but to fix the problems, as Editor David Shadovitz blogged about at the time.

As Nanterme says in the video as well as the company’s announcement, promoting and growing diversity is good for his business as well as the world his 15-year-old daughter will soon inherit.

“We create an environment where our people can be successful, both professionally and personally,” he says in the latter. “Quite simply, our diversity makes Accenture stronger, smarter and more innovative.”

I’m confident the same sentiment exists at Google and Intel, and probably at many organizations soon to follow in all three companies’ footsteps.

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The HR Leader as Anthropologist

When two of an organization’s highest-ranking individuals resign within hours of each other, it’s usually not because things are going exceptionally well.

As you’ve no doubt heard, both the president and chancellor at the University of Missouri stepped down from their respective posts this past Monday. Their resignations came in the midst of a student-led outcry over a lack of action taken by the U of M administration in response to several racially-driven incidents on the predominately white campus in recent years.

Leadership at the Columbia, Mo.-based institution—the flagship of the University of Missouri System—had been feeling the heat from all sides. Now-former university president Tim Wolfe, in particular, came under intense scrutiny for what a tweet from Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians described as his “negligence toward marginalized students’ experience” at the school.

For example, African-American players from the Mizzou football team—with the full support of their white teammates—declared on Nov. 8 that they would neither play nor practice until Wolfe was removed from his position as the university’s president.

Just five days earlier, grad student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike that he said would last until Wolfe was ousted. On Nov. 9, the Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet called for Wolfe to resign.

That same day, Wolfe obliged them, with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announcing just hours later that he would be leaving his job effective Jan. 1, transitioning to a role coordinating research at the university.

The question of how to eliminate or even curb racism on a college campus or anywhere else is one that’s entirely too large for us to attempt to take on in this space. But we can’t help but ask—from our admittedly very safe and very distant vantage point—could the HR function at the university have done anything to help prevent the tensions simmering on the U of M campus from reaching a boil?

That’s a tough question to answer from an outsider’s perspective, of course. But what’s unfolding at the school illustrates the importance of one of the HR leader’s many roles, says Dave Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“Good HR folks have a sense of what’s happening,” says Ulrich. “Sometimes HR analytics look only at spreadsheet, empirical data. [But], there is another field of analytics called anthropology.”

Acting as an anthropologist of sorts, as Ulrich explains, an HR professional should observe, listen and anticipate patterns to get a handle on how people within the organization—students and faculty members, in this case—are feeling, and how they’re relating to each other.

At the University of Missouri, he says, “it should not [have] come as a surprise that racial tension existed and persists. HR should have looked for this [tension] and then created forums for dialogue so that very emotionally charged issues could be discussed.”

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Gaining an Edge via Mentoring

Few of you, I’m sure, need to be convinced of the value of mentoring.  But are certain workforce demographics more likely to gain from a formal mentoring program than others?

ThinkstockPhotos-479512083Well, according to a recent paper titled “Network Intervention: A Field Experiment to Assess the Effects of Formal Mentoring on Workplace Networks,” published in a recent edition of Social Forces, the answer is yes, assuming we’re talking about gender.

The paper by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business Assistant Professor Sameer Srivastava reports that women gained more social-capital affiliation with a high-status mentor than their male counterparts.

Why?

According to Srivastava, women in this study of 139 “high-potential” employees at a software-development lab for a U.S.-headquartered company in China experienced a greater increase in visibility and legitimacy as a result of their mentor affiliations than did male participants.

The employer at the center of the research had been experimenting with different ways to help employees develop their breadth of social capital and decided to use a formal mentoring program to support that effort. Employees were asked to shadow a more senior person in another part of the organization for about a dozen days over a two-to-three-month period.

During that time, the protégés attended meetings with their mentors and worked on short project assignments. The senior employees’ objective, meanwhile, was to transfer some of their organizational social capital to their protégés.

Srivastava suggests care needs to be taken before applying the findings of the research to other contexts, but he believes they certainly lend support to “the idea of formal mentoring programs as a means of addressing differences in the kinds of organizational networks that women and men tend to form, which, in turn, contribute to gender inequality in the workplace.”

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Intel’s Diversity Progress is Now ‘In the Book’

Considering all the steps Intel’s leaders have been taking to improve diversity at the giant Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, it should 79084610 --diversity in techcome as no surprise that the company’s first mid-year Diversity in Technology Report released last week shows considerable progress.

Details of that progress — mentioned in a blog post by Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell and a public letter to employees from Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich —  include the fact that Intel is now “tracking to 43 percent of its diverse hires in 2015,” exceeding its U.S. goal for 2015 of 40 percent, according to the report.

Also, it says, more blacks and women are now working at Intel than were at the beginning of the year. Of new employees this year, 35 percent were women and 5 percent were black, well above Intel’s current workforce representation. In addition, according to the report, more women and minorities are in leadership today at Intel than at the beginning of the year, with an 11-percent increase for senior women employees and a 19-percent increase in senior leadership for blacks. In her blog post, Hudnell touts her organization’s commitment, from the top down, to improving these numbers:

“Our team has used the same laser focus that has brought innovation to the world [around] the issue of diversity and inclusion.  And while we have strengthened our focus in our programs, systems and measurements, the game changer has been the level of accountability driven from the top.”

Indeed, in January, Krzanich announced plans to make Intel more representative of the U.S. population by 2020, with some $300 million dedicated to the effort. Four months later, he unveiled some impressive movement in that direction that I blogged about at the time.

More recently, on July 29, the company announced it would double its referral bonus for employees who help the organization diversify its workforce. Specifically, as Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine blogged the next day, employees who refer a woman, underrepresented minority or veteran who is ultimately hired will receive $4,000.

Mind you, Intel is not alone among Silicon Valley’s tech companies to address this, or to open its books for the public to see exactly where it stands when it comes to women and minority hiring. Way back in May of 2014, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations for Google, came clean with the public on his company’s numbers in an effort to move the needle, according to this blog post by Editor David Shadovitz.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama issued a call to action to the tech industry, asking companies to step up their game on workforce diversity. Seven of the 14 companies responding to his challenge — including Intel — have agreed to try out something called the Rooney Rule, which was implemented in 2003 in the National Football League by Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.

Basically, according to the rule (which Rooney was applying to head-coach hiring), at least one woman and one minority must be considered for every open position. This Fortune.com story goes into far more detail about the rule, and its pros and cons.

I think what impresses me the most about what’s happening in the Silicon Valley around diversity in technology is the transparency serving as a kind of foundation to it all. Bock’s unveiling was a breath of fresh air. And now, at least according to Krzanich, Intel is sharing “more data than any company in our industry,” specifically “more information that [what’s] available on the EEO-1 form or [what’s] been reported in the past for our U.S. workforce.”

That has to be the best road to the kind of sweeping, mammoth demographic change being called for here — to openly admit reality in order to create a new one. Hudnell’s post certainly speaks to this. As she puts it, Intel’s intention “is to do all we can to collaborate and share openly so that what we all desire becomes the reality.”

Not a bad rule to live by, whatever business change you’re trying to effect.

 

 

 

 

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Intel Incents Employees to Help It Diversify

Intel has announced it will double its employee referral bonus for employees who help the giant chipmaker diversify its workforce. Employees who refer a woman, underrepresented minority or veteran who is ultimately hired will receive $4,000, the company announced yesterday.

“Of course, we always want you to refer your brilliant friends from all fields and backgrounds, so the standard ERP (employee referral program) bonus will continue,” Intel said in a statement that was reported by OregonLive (Intel has a major presence in Oregon, employing 18,600 people there). “But we also recognize that we need to evolve to keep Intel competitive in the global marketplace and representative of our consumers and communities.”

Intel – along with most other Silicon Valley companies – falls considerably short when it comes to the diversity of its workforce. According to its latest data, three quarters of Intel’s U.S. workforce is male, 55 percent is white, 32 percent is Asian or Pacific Islander, and only 8 percent and 4 percent are, respectively, Hispanic and African-American, reports OregonLive.

Intel’s diversity took a hit earlier this month when its highest-ranking woman,  Renee James, announced her resignation as the company’s president. However, Intel clearly remains committed to its major diversity push, announced at the beginning of this year, in which it will spend $300 million by 2020 to make its workforce at all levels much more representative of the U.S. population.  It appears to be making some progress: 41 percent of Intel’s hires this year have come from underrepresented groups, compared to 32 percent last year, while 17 percent of senior executives hired in the first quarter were from minority groups and 33 percent were women, reports OregonLive.

 

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