Category Archives: diversity

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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Overcoming the Barriers Disabled Americans Face

On July 26, it will be 25 years since George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodation and a number of other areas.

ThinkstockPhotos-457783527At the time of the signing, the president said …

“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred … . Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Whether or not that “shameful wall of exclusion” has actually fallen is debatable. But with the release on Wednesday of a study titled the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, there’s now further evidence that people with disabilities are striving to work and are having some success in overcoming many of the barriers that have stood in the way. (Kessler unveiled the results to policymakers on Capitol Hill.)

Take the following finding in this study of 3,013 Americans with disabilities that was commissioned by the West Orange, N.J.-based Kessler Foundation and conducted by the University of New Hampshire: Nearly 69 percent of those surveyed are either working, looking for work or have worked since the onset of the disability.

“This clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities are ready and able to contribute their talents in the workforce,” says Kessler Foundation President and CEO Rodger DeRose.

Diving a little deeper into the data, the researchers found that Americans with disabilities who are employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, with just over 60 percent of those working more than 40 hours per week.

The research did confirm, as might be expected, that many Americans with disabilities continue to encounter formidable barriers as they look for work, with the top three being the lack of sufficient education or training, employers that assume they can’t do the job and the lack of transportation. Then, once in the workplace, they face hurdles such as getting less pay than others in a similar job, negative attitudes of supervisors and negative attitudes of co-workers.

But, as mentioned earlier, the report does go on to make the point that a substantial percentage of the respondents are successfully overcoming many of these challenges. Of the 36 percent who reported employers assumed they couldn’t do a job, for instance, around 33 percent said they were able to overcome that barrier. Similarly, of the nearly 17 percent who said they were getting less pay than others in similar positions, nearly 39 indicated they were able to surmount that hurdle.

Earlier today, I asked John O’Neill, director  of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation, which of the findings surprised him most.

O’Neill specifically cited the finding that transportation may not be as significant a barrier as some have previously contended.

“When people think of barriers to job search, transportation is one of the first things to come to mind,” he says. “Yet of those looking for jobs, only 25 percent said they faced that barrier. Add, on top of that, that 42 percent of those facing that barrier had overcome it, and it would seem to be not as looming an issue as many people might have thought in the past.”

As for a takeaway for HR leaders, O’Neill points to the attitudes of supervisors and co-workers.

Roughly 16 percent of those with disabilities cited they had experienced barriers resulting from supervisors’ attitudes and about the same proportion experienced barriers resulting from co-workers’ attitudes, he says. But when you ask them about their ability to overcome those barriers, he adds, about 41 percent reported they were able to do so and 54 percent reported the same, respectively.

“Those figures,” he says, “are higher than I would have thought—and says that, while they’re [still] issues, people are finding ways to negotiate and work with their supervisors in terms of how they are being perceived.”

There no question a lot more work needs to be done when it comes to ridding the workplace of the many and varying barriers facing those with disabilities. But it’s also nice to see new research suggesting they aren’t insurmountable.

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Choosing Between Faith and Work

By now, most everyone has heard of or read about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision in favor of Samantha Elauf, the woman who brought suit against clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, claiming the company did not offer her a job because her religious identity violates Abercrombie’s “look policy.”

In the opinion for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

“An applicant need show only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision, not that the employer had knowledge of his need.”

While the Court’s decision may introduce changes in the way employers screen and hire applicants in future, Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a PhD candidate at Columbia University, writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that the ruling also serves as an opportunity to “improve existing legislation on workplace discrimination and religious freedom.”

Singh says Elauf also demonstrated that she recognizes her case would have bearing for a number of different communities. “I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work,” she said, following the oral arguments. “Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.”

Indeed, according to Singh:

Americans are one step closer to not having to choose between their faith and their work.

On the employer side, however, the decision “dramatically” changes the standards that apply to employers, says Michael Droke, a Seattle-based partner at the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney’s labor and employment division, because it removes the requirement that an employee or applicant request a religious accommodation, if the employer’s motive is later deemed a violation of Title VII.

“The Abercrombie decision calls into question common provisions in many employee handbooks. Employers should immediately review their handbooks and policy manuals to determine those issues which could cause discrimination,” Droke says.

He also says the decision “reinforces the importance of involving the human resources function any time a protected class is, or could be, involved in making an employment decision.”

Droke notes the Abercrombie decision also reinforces the importance of manager training, all the way down to the lowest level in-store supervisor.

“Manager training is particularly important for companies with employees in a large number of locations,” he says. “Geographically dispersed companies, like Abercrombie & Fitch, often require location or regional management to make key employee decisions.  This case reemphasizes the need to give management the employee relations tools and knowledge they need to make lawful employment decisions.”

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