concerns surrounding the quality of their diversity data. Others felt that their programs would not measure up against the diversity programs of other companies. Still others indicated that they had no diversity programs or initiatives. Corporations also addressed the issue of data confidentiality and in some cases felt that legal considerations could not be resolved to meet their internal corporate policies. Other corporations did not have the reporting mechanisms in place to complete the survey because of the lack of data tracking and/or the lack of automated processes necessary to access data about blacks and ethnic minorities. And hundreds of corporations did not feel it necessary to respond at all.
The fact that most companies remain largely indifferent to changing corporate America’s predominantly white status quo makes it all the more important for us to laud the 300 or so companies that are aggressively pursuing diversity initiatives. They include companies such as General Motors and Starwood Hotels that have excelled at seeking out and doing business with black suppliers, many of which are represented on our BE 100S lists of the nation’s largest black-owned companies. Others, such as Xerox Corp. and FedEx Express, are among the very best at bringing talented people of color into the senior management ranks of their companies, while PG&E and Marriott International are among those that have excelled at African American board representation. And when it comes to workforce diversity, corporations such as McDonald’s Corp. and Verizon are old hands. In short, the BE 30 Best Companies for Diversity are setting the standard for the rest of corporate America. Their commitment to diversity and inclusion are key to maintaining African American gains in employment, earning power, and business ownership.
But are they perfect? Let’s not get carried away. Marlon D. Cousin, managing partner of The Marquin Group, an executive recruiting and diversity consulting firm in Atlanta, puts it this way: “Trying to identify the companies with the most effective corporate diversity programs can be a bit like identifying the tallest people in a nation of midgets.”
Even the best diversity companies, including more than a few on our list, have been hit with discrimination lawsuits (in some cases, several) within the past two years. In fact, one of the ironies of corporate diversity is that the fewer minority employees a company has, the less likely it is to face a workplace discrimination suit. Companies coping with the challenging task of managing a large, diverse organization are far more likely to face such lawsuits than comparably sized companies with no diversity to manage.
“There’s obviously still pain in those organizations,” offers Thomas. “It’s possible for there to be parts of the company where negative things are happening, but for the company to be making progress [overall].”
Make no mistake about it—the business of diversity is tough and very much a work in progress. Even the 30 Best Companies for Diversity can ill afford to rest on their laurels.
Moreover, they were far more likely than most corporations to have the mechanisms