By Wallace Edward BrandWallace Edward Brand practices law in his own firm in Washington, DC, where he represents small electric systems.
If diverse candidates perceive that they aren't going to be treated as part of the team, she says, many simply won't apply in the first place. It's just too hard to do good work and battle to be included on top of that.
As Smye notes, "One woman doesn't make a different environment-that's a token." The same holds true for minorities (see Figures 2 and 4).
Part of the problem, too, is that company commitments to diversity are often embodied in lofty statements, leaving employees and managers unsure of what they need to do or not do, according to Paskoff.
"Frequently, diversity is not treated with specificity" in organizations, Paskoff says. Approach a CEO at a major utility about how company goals of growing the customer base or adding megawatts can be achieved, and he can tell you precisely what steps are needed, Paskoff maintains. Yet when it comes to diversity, CEOs often can't articulate exactly what they mean, he argues. In fact, he says, if you ask 50 people in a company what diversity means, and you get 50 different answers, it means the organization has a pattern for discord and chaos.
Paskoff challenges his clients' management teams to explain why, if employees can consistently explain the company's commitment to safety, they cannot do the same for diversity. For Paskoff, the answer is simple: Diversity is not treated the same by management.
Are We There Yet?
So how does a conscientious CEO or executive tell if a diversity program works, and isn't just so much window-dressing? Fontenot-Jamerson advises not analyzing programs to death. Instead, she says, decide on the front end how long the evaluation period will be. If at the end of the designated period there is no noticeable change in diversity, it's time to end that program and move on to a different program or strategy to improve diversity.
Fontenot-Jamerson knows whereof she speaks. She has served as the company's diversity manager for 12 years, almost as long as the company has had such a position. Under her guidance, along with active support from former CEO Richard Farman and current CEO Stephen Baum, Sempra has achieved some impressive diversity numbers: 49 percent of its workforce can be classified as minority or ethnic. That percentage correlates closely to the average workforce figures in California (see Figure 1).
Who's Driving This Train?
While listing diversity as a company core value certainly sends a message, diversity is likely to remain merely a message unless the CEO and senior management make it clear that diversity is a priority for them. Paskoff maintains that the CEO must be very specific about the results he wants. "As an example, the CEO needs to say, 'If I have a group of direct reports in five years that all look like me, I'm going to have some serious questions about what we've done here, and I'm going to need some serious answers to how this could have happened.' That's the kind of focus a CEO needs to have" on diversity, Paskoff says.
Fontenot-Jamerson agrees. She