Friday, July 12, 2013

Diversity will not be achieved in a vacuum


he issue is back in the spotlight in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to return the Fisher v. University of Texas case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further scrutiny. This merely pushes the decision back for another round of consideration on whether a school could achieve a goal of a diverse student body without factoring race in its admissions process. Given that the subject is polarizing, as well as confusing, don’t expect easy answers any time soon.
    So while the court plays hot potato with the issue, it is somewhat encouraging to see some corporate leaders champion the hiring of more women and minorities.
    Almost 60 large corporations lobbied the Supreme Court to uphold the decision, noting that their own workforces have benefited from being increasingly diverse. Among those firms is Norwalk-based Xerox, which has an internal review board to promote diversity. Xerox’s CEO is Ursula Burns, the first black woman to lead a Standard & Poor’s 500 company.
    The companies admit that supporting diversity in hiring practices is more than a moral stand. General Mills CEO Ken Powell said, “It’s very important for the company to capture and have within our ranks employees who really understand the broad spectrum of American society in order for us to be an effective consumer goods company.”
    So yes, it’s good for the bottom line. It’s also a question of survival, as the U.S. Census Bureau predicts the population will shift to a non-white majority by 2043. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of board members on the top 200 companies on the S&P 500 Index are minorities.
    The mission of affirmative action is simple. Diversity will not be achieved in a vacuum, so the conversation must be elevated. Whether you chose to champion or condemn affirmative action, the goals of racial justice are undeniable. In that spirit — and not merely to grow the bottom line — we hope the current dialogue inspires change in more of our workplaces.

The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate published this editorial on July 2..

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