DIVERSITY: It means understanding that each individual is unique and that we recognize our individual differences. These differences can be of race, gender, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs etc. Diversity means exploring these differences in a positively. The concept of diversity revolves around Acceptance and Respect. It is understanding each other, accepting the differences and moving beyond the stigmas to respect and embrace the diversity.
Spencer Owens & Co.
What did Spencer Owens do to bring in diversity?
Spencer Owens’ past shows that they’ve put in enormous amount of efforts to diversify their work force. The company strategized on bringing racial, ethnic and gender diversity from entry level to executive ranks. Prior to this strategy being implemented, the company had an all-white executive male team. To implement the plan, the company set hiring goals, communicating them to all employees and creating accountability. This in turn, created an opportunity for people of colour and women to establish their career.
Spencer Owens was considered the most diverse staff in the industry in 1995 with 50% of the firm’s 150 managers and professionals being women and 30% being people of colour. Also, people of colour who were hired into entry level positions, were promoted to managerial positions. 4 out of the 12-person executive team were women and 3 were people of colour. Spencer Owens knew that the key to diversity within the company was to build the staff by instituting affirmative goals, along with aggressive hiring and advancement practices that set high qualification and performance hurdles.
What is the scene now? Why are the tensions rising?
Spencer Owens started witnessing great changes in the diversity and also encountering various problems and issues. In 2000, the company hired Agnes Richards, their first woman executive director in 45 years. One of the first steps that she took was to initiate ‘sensitivity training’. In addition, she embraced employees’ efforts to form networking groups. Over the next three years, she noticed that the changes that were being made were not fruitful, and also, they were affecting the productivity of the company. She noticed friction among race relations, people of colour were bringing charges of racism against the white workers and the frequency of complaints by the networking groups was disturbing. In addition to this, Richards fired an African-American female manager due to her history of being late and for portraying a bad attitude. At that point, the employees became angry and frustrated.
Due to these problems, Richards decided to hire consultants to study the firm’s gender and race relations. The interviews revealed:
• Employees had numerous concerns about affirmative action initiative
• Some white employees believed that the diversity program was adversely affecting the quality of work
• White program staff feared that these ideas were pulling the organisation away from its original mission and values
• People of colour were critical of the affirmative action program, feeling that they were tolerated rather than being accepted
• People of colour feel that their ideas are not respected and ignored easily
• The fear of being called a racist
Root Cause of the Problem?