Category Archives: diversity

What’s Missing from This Picture?

I don’t mean to pick on another b-to-b site, but  I couldn’t help but notice the following story in e-week entitled Windows & Interoperability: 17 Microsoft Executives Determining the Company’s Future—and something that was sorely missing from the list.

Describing Microsoft at a crossroads, the story featured 17 executives who “have a direct hand in whether Microsoft will succeed or fail in its efforts.” I’m sure a lot of thought went into compiling the list, but I have to believe there must be at least a few women at Microsoft who could be considered instrumental to its future (all 17 happen to be men). Let’s hope so, for Microsoft’s sake.

Were she asked, maybe SVP of HR Lisa Brummel could have suggested a name or two for the writer? Maybe even her own?

Disabled Workers Lose Advocate

The New York Times is reporting on the death of Paul S. Miller, a long-time advocate for disabled workers who was also born with achondroplasia, or dwarfism.

The paper reported the cause of death was cancer.

Miller was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, but was rejected by law firms more than 40 times, according to the piece, because of his physical stature:

One time, he said, he was told the firm feared that clients would see his hiring as a “circus freak show.”

Despite those setbacks, Miller was hired by a law firm, and eventually became a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was director of the university’s disabilities studies program. According to the NYT:

For 10 years before joining the faculty in 2004, he was a commissioner of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the same time, he was the Clinton administration’s liaison to disability organizations, a role he reprised in the first nine months of the Obama presidency.

We here at the Leader Board salute Miller and his efforts to lead more disabled workers to their rightful places in the working world.

Study Shows Sharp Divide Between Genders on Boards

Nothing really surprising in this release about new research from Heidrick & Struggles and WomenCorporateDirectors showing a big gender divide between male and female board directors on issues of diversity and pay.

Nearly 400 male and female directors were surveyed on what they see as keys to restoring public trust in corporate boards after the economic crisis. While a majority of women respondents (65 percent versus 35 percent of men) said they believe diversity is paramount in this quest, only about half of men and women directors think their boards are doing a good job of advancing it.

Women also seem to have much greater faith in new regulations regarding executive compensation systems (45 percent versus 22 percent for men), proxy access (38 percent versus 17 percent) and enhanced risk-management systems (40 percent versus 1 percent).

Another finding: More women directors than men felt three or more women on a board made it more effective (51 percent versus 12 percent) and that women brought unique attributes to a board (90 percent versus 56 percent). I’m especially fond of that last statistic … not.

My overall take on this? Since women are still personally struggling with issues of pay and gender equity in the workplace, and in the upper echelons of C-suites and boards of directors, it makes sense that they’re the ones who “get it” when it comes to determining the importance of these issues in building overall corporate trust.

Susan Stautberg, co-founder and co-chair of WCD, says the survey also reflects that “women directors, more than men, seem open to challenging the status quo.”

Pay Gap Favoring Men Isn’t Universal

The gender pay gap, where men typically earn more than women, continues to persist. But according to a story posted on Time’s website today, there’s at least one segment of the workforce where the gap now favors women.

In a just released analysis of data from 2,000 communities, Slingerlands, N.Y.-based market research firm Reach Advisors reports that the median full-time salaries of young women who are unmarried, childless and under 30 are 8 percent higher than men in their peer group in 147 of  the 150 biggest U.S. cities.

Because the research was intended primarily for market-research purposes and not to shed light on HR practices, Reach Advisors’ president James Chung declined to comment for this blog post. But in the Time article, he primarily credits education for the difference.

“For every two guys who graduate from college or get a higher degree, three women do,” the Time article said. “This is almost the exact opposite of the graduation ratio that existed when the baby boomers entered college.”

Chung’s conclusion is certainly in line with other studies that show college degrees result in better wages.

Though the economic advantage sometimes disappears as women age and have families, Chung told Time he believes women may now have enough leverage so their financial gains aren’t completely erased as they get older.

In time, I guess we’ll find out whether Chung is right. But at least for now, it’s nice to see study findings that suggest the pay gap in favor of men isn’t true across the board.

SHRM Forms Task Forces to Develop New HR Standards

Wanted to make sure everyone saw this announcement from the Society for Human Resource Management that it is forming two task forces to develop two new standards: the standard for measures and metrics and the standard for diversity and inclusion.

That will bring SHRM’s total to three since the American National Standards Institute designated the Alexandria-based organization as the exclusive U.S. developer of human resource standards in February of 2009. The first task force was formed later that year to develop a standard for performance management.

Seems a true sign of the times for the HR profession that these three focuses — performance management, measures and metrics, and diversity — would be the first three “out of the corral.”  Will be interesting to see what four, five and beyond will be.

In Search of Diversity

In April, I wrote a story for HREOnline™  about the efforts of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, to initiate a survey of Fortune 500 companies to see “if the boardrooms high atop Wall Street look like what we see every day walking down Main Street.”

Well the findings are now in—and aren’t pretty. Though voluntary, the survey reaped an impressive response of 219 Fortune 500 corporations and 71 Fortune 100 corporations. It found that minorities represent a total of 14.5 percent of directors on corporate boards and overall have less representation on executive teams than they do on corporate boards.

Hispanics, the study found, are the least proportionately represented on boards and fared even worse on executive teams. They comprise just over 3 percent of board members and just under 3 percent on executive teams.

Obviously, the findings confirm what everyone pretty much already knows: That employers still have much more work ahead when it comes to diversifying their executive ranks.

In releasing the findings, Menendez didn’t suggest a legislative response. But he did offer the following recommendation: creating a task force with select corporations, executive search firms, board members and other experts to help companies move in this direction.

In Pursuit of Board Diversity

Investors have a bit more information to go on these days as far as evaluating the diversity levels of boards, since the Securities and Exchange Commission approved late last year rules to enhance the information provided to shareholders.

Calvert Asset Management, a mutual-fund company that invests in socially responsible companies, has been leading the charge when it comes to board diversity, with its most recent victory, involving Netflix, announced yesterday. Along with Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, Calvert reported the successful resolution of its efforts to promote board diversity at the entertainment distributor. Netflix, headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif., recently named its first female director, Ann Mathers, to its board.

The Securities and Exchange Commission rules are vague when it comes to defining the word “diversity,” but pretty much every proxy now at least mentions it. Yet while everyone agrees race and gender diversity are important, Henry Stoever, a spokesman for the National Association of Corporate Directors in Washington, stresses the importance of the board reflecting the skills that are needed to achieve a business’ strategy.

For now, employers can expect investors such as Calvert to continue to apply pressure. Aditi Mohapatra, sustainability analyst for the Bethesda, Md.-based company, reports that her firm has been issuing a steady stream of shareholder proposals on board diversity, roughly nine or 10 per year, since 2002. “We’ve been targeting the bottom of the bunch, those companies where we see a lack of commitment,” she says.

Nor is it alone in its efforts. “We’ve had seven or eight different firms file proposals with us,” Mohapatra points out.

When HR Files Suit

An attorney once told me that organizations should be very wary of adverse-job actions involving HR or finance professionals — because they know where all the dirt is.

Evidently, no one ever mentioned that to Medtronic, which was sued recently by David Ness, its former vice president of global rewards and human resources.  Ness alleges in the age-bias complaint that the company pushed him out to replace him with a younger version. He’s 61.

According to the suit, Ness says he not only was pushed out, he was forced to train his replacement. And when the company offered him a severance package that the lawsuit notes was much lower than that offered to other executives who were forced out, he was fired instead.

Ness had been with the company for 36 years. Medtronic, of course, denies it engaged in age discrimination.

Might be interesting to see some of the discovery that takes place as this lawsuit winds its way through the court system.

Some Disquieting — and Costly — Facts

Every 1.5 percent increase in unemployment equals a 21 percent increase in employee lawsuits, said Shanti Atkins, president and CEO of ELT in a standing-room-only session on “2010 EEO Trends” at the SHRM convention in San Diego.

She also noted that corporate spending on legal fees and costs to defend employment cases jumped 54 percent from 2008, and that 2009 saw the second highest number of discrimination claims filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in U.S. history.

Retaliation is now the most common claim filed, followed by race discrimination and sex bias.

What many front-line managers don’t know — and it is they who “are the ones creating the risk, she said” — is that a retaliation claim can succeed whether or not the underlying discrimination claim has any basis in fact.

Another thing managers don’t understand, she said, is that no “incredibly dramatic” actions are required to show that retaliation has occurred. It can be a cold shoulder, poor work assignments, a series of minor events.

And the average jury verdict for a retaliation claim? $200,000.

Rules for Diversity

Working to restore a farmhouse with her husband, the “farmer,” crystalized the meaning — and the impact — of diversity for Penelope Trunk, CEO of Brazen Careerist, a career consulting firm.

These are her seven rules for diversity, but you should click on the link to get the amusing stories that go along with them:

1. Accept that some people don’t care about what you care about.

2. Know when you have to get your way.

3. Don’t try to change others. See the world differently yourself.

4. Seek out opposing views, just to practice processing them.

5. Use innocuous obsessions to distract from genuine conflict.

6. There’s relief: A new, jarring way of thinking becomes tame over time.

7. Real diversity requires real patience.