Commentary

For These 50 Companies, Diversity Means Success

May 04, 2017

On Tuesday, DiversityInc, a wide-reaching publication dedicated to clarifying the business benefits of diversity, announced their 2017 Top 50 Companies for Diversity. It’s a great list to study and discuss, and if your company’s not on it, to print out and leave outside the executive washroom.

Topping the list was EY, who pushed last year’s winner, Kaiser Permanente, to number two, followed by AT&T at number three, PwC in the fourth spot and Johnson & Johnson rounding out the top five.

Click through for the specialty lists like top companies for supplier diversity, LGBT employees, global diversity, executive women, and veterans.

The list also gets a nod from Fortune data journalist Grace Donnelly. “The DiversityInc Top 50 methodology is more data-driven than many similar lists and awards. Companies don't pay a fee to be evaluated and the ranking process relies on a 200-question survey completed by each participating organization.” In her view, this makes the list more objective than those that rely purely on sentiment or employee feedback. What they are unable to do is share the specific demographic data of any company, since so few make their numbers publicly available. In a world where more transparency is needed, the status quo still has a long way to go. But there is no downside for the companies to participate says Donnelly, and real value in doing so. “DiversityInc gives each company that enters gets a report card, regardless of whether or not they make the list, that uses their data to show how they compare to their competitors and how they could improve their best practices.”

DiversityInc has been issuing the list since 2001, and the business case for inclusion is becoming more tangible with each passing year. CNBC reporter (and dear friend to raceAhead) Bertha Coombs was on hand at the celebration of the list’s unveiling to put the list into Wall-Street speak:

“The companies that compete to earn a spot on the DiversityInc Top 50 – and the specialty lists — understand the importance of diverse workforces and management teams. Research shows that these most diverse companies tend to actually perform better financially than the overall market. The Top 50 stock index, analyzed by CNBC’s market services group, shows that longer term, three to five years, those companies on the DI Top 50 list of the most diverse companies outperform the overall market by a healthy margin.”

Shareholder value may be an old-school metric for some, but it has real meaning. I'll give Bertha the last word. "[W]hen you look at the data, companies committed to diversity just grow and prosper more on every front. So if you don’t focus on the buying power of Latinos or people of color, if you don’t look at the fact that in the next 30 years or so, the majority of this country — more than 52 percent — will be people of color, then you are really missing the big picture." Get serious about the pipeline, she says. "You’ve got to develop young people who have a lot of different backgrounds. And in the long term, if you don’t — simply put — you’ll be less successful."

On Point

Facebook responds to accusations of gender bias in engineering

Last year, a longtime female Facebook engineer generated data purporting to show that code written by women engineers was more likely to be rejected than code written by men – 35% more likely in fact. Since then, the company has been scrambling to confirm or explain her findings, according to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal. After running their own internal investigation, the company now explains that the success gap is because of rank, not gender. Now concerned employees view this as evidence that women hired in at the same time as men are not being promoted as quickly. Women make up just 17% of technical roles at Facebook, but ranks within technical departments are not broken out in the company’s diversity report.

Wall Street Journal

Facebook Live users call for the company to do more

While the Facebook Live service is great for some things, like live-streaming church services, the horrors that occasionally pop up on individual feeds is hardly worth the risk. This describes the blessing and the curse of Facebook for Carissa Godbott, who attends church near where Robert Godwin, Sr. was murdered. The company has since hired 3,000 more people to review content looking to shield people from live-streamed sexual assaults and violence. But the many people USA Today interviewed for this story remain wary at best. Special shout-out to tech writer Jessica Guynn for her effortless reliance on diverse “real people” for insightful commentary and actionable suggestions – 100% of the Facebook users quoted were women, and 60% were women of color.

USA Today

A smart explainer of the H-1B visa debate

The H-1B visa system is the largest guest worker program the U.S. offers, as complex as it is vast. Because it allows companies to hire workers with specialized skills that may be hard to find, it disproportionately benefits tech firms. Many worry that the system displaces American workers as it imports foreign-born talent at lower pay. This piece from HBR digs expertly into the debate and provides lots of supporting data. (It’s a must bookmark.) Here’s just one example: While the typical image of the H-1B worker is of a high-priced engineer striding confidently across Apple’s campus, in fact, a large percentage are hired in at entry level wages for outsourced IT and consulting work – and who do replace higher paid American techies who work in-house.

HBR

A Mississippi funeral home refuses to transport and cremate the body of a gay man

After a 52-year devoted partnership and legally-sanctioned marriage, Jack Zawadski lost his husband Robert Huskey after a short decline. They’d lived together in Picayune, Miss. for two decades. Yet when Zawadski sought the services of the Picayune Funeral Home, he was shocked to learn that they’d refused to pick up Huskey’s body from the nursing home after his paperwork cited his same sex husband as next of kin. "Bob was my life, and we had always felt so welcome in this community. And then, at a moment of such personal pain and loss, to have someone do what they did to me, to us, to Bob, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Zawadski. The family scrambled to find another option; the nearest other facility with an on-site crematorium was 90 miles away. Zawadski has filed a discrimination suit against the funeral home.

Gay Star News

The really good coal jobs require suits and ties

If you’re looking for a good ‘have vs have-not’ story, add this to your list. New analysis of government data show that from 2004 to 2016, the average annual wage for chief executives ($200,000) in the coal industry grew as much as five times faster than those of lower-paying jobs, like construction or machine operation ($35,000). Coal executive pay also grew faster than their counterparts in other industries across the country, while pay for construction type jobs in coal failed to keep pace with similar jobs in other fields. The over-compensation seems to be an attempt by boards to keep top talent from fleeing. But that can backfire says one analyst. “[Y]ou’re not incentivizing them to shift to another approach, like making a transition toward more renewables.” Tell that to the mostly union-less miners who are now competing for temporary low-wage jobs with no benefits: One ad for an underground mining job in Pennsylvania offered $17 an hour.

New York Times

The Woke Leader

Ilie Nastase’s racist comments about Serena’s pregnancy reveals a common discomfort with mixed race families

Although we may have all made a silent pact not to ask Nastase any more questions after he said Serena’s baby with white fiancé Alexis Ohanian would look like “chocolate with milk,” Erica Chito Childs, an associate professor of sociology at Hunter College and CUNY does a far better job unpacking why his comment about this pregnancy is so disturbing. “[W]e need to understand Nastase’s comments within the idea that there is something defective, or at least different, about biracial children, a twist on the tragic mulatto stereotype,” she writes. What passes as jokes or thoughtless asides are really deep-seated prejudices. “The continued rejection of racial mixing lies in deep-seated notions of racial difference and maintenance of racial boundaries,” she says citing her own research on the subject. Serena’s immediate call-out was the right thing to do, she says.

Fortune

When you will never be black enough

The complexity of race hits home early for biracial kids, especially if they fall so far on one side of the skin tone spectrum that they trigger aggressive commentary from others. Such was the case for the fair skinned Sara Heikkinen, who tells Teen Vogue that the connection she felt with other black and biracial kids was shattered in fifth grade. While playing on the playground, a boy named Damon explained that she was, in fact, different. ‘‘You see,’ he said, ‘me and Ariana, we’re Oreos. But you, Sarah,’ he pointed at my pale, freckled skin and curly blonde hair, ‘you’re an Uh-Oh Oreo.’” (The Uh-Oh Oreo is discontinued now, but you get the drift.) Heikkinen goes on to explore how she internalized the comment while struggling to hang on to the blackness that describes her identity and her connection with her mother. “But still, I’ve always had a lot of trouble with the fear that I will never be black enough.”

Teen Vogue

You should visit Uncertain, Texas

If you’re looking to understand the unique experience of life in forgotten America, then visit the documentary version of Uncertain, Texas, population 94 human souls - with some wild boar and embattled fish thrown in for good measure. It is lushly told through the story of three men, who despite their differences in age, race and journey, are desperate for redemption and hope in similar ways. The town is equal parts bayou beauty and abject despair, a hiccup near the Texas and Louisiana border where there are few jobs to be found outside of the tourism provided by a now unhealthy lake. "Uncertain is not on the way to anywhere. You've got to either know where you're goin' or be lost to find it," says Sheriff Tom McCool of Harrison County, Texas. The film is beautiful and bittersweetly funny, and paints unflinching portraits with extraordinary tenderness and dignity. Highly recommend.

Uncertain Film

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