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Is Your Company Diverse Enough?

Kate Lorenz, Editor

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Is your company diverse enough? As the U.S. workforce evolves, this question has never held more importance to workers or employers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2008, women and minorities will make up 70 percent of all new entrants to the workforce. Today, the nation's workforce is already nearly 48 percent female, 14 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Unfortunately, increased representation in the workplace isn't necessarily translating into equal clout. Even though Hispanics are now the largest U.S. minority group, they hold less than 3 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats, according to an article published in the Dallas Morning News.

Diversity defined

In a survey by and America Online, one-in-ten hiring managers reported that diverse candidates will make up 50 percent or more of their new hires in 2006. One-third say their new hires will be least 25 percent diverse candidates.

But what exactly is diversity? Today, embracing diversity means far more than creating more and equal opportunities for black and Hispanic workers. Diversity initiatives also benefit Asians, Native Americans, women, people with disabilities, and gay and lesbian workers.

Recognizing this, hiring managers will be especially aggressive in recruiting women and Hispanics in 2006, the CareerBuilder and AOL survey found.

Benefits of diversity

More than 54 percent of hiring managers polled by last August said they believe that workplace diversity increases a company's success. Having a diverse workforce reduces employee turnover, improves relationships with customers and positively impacts the company culture.

Embracing diversity also positively impacts a company's bottom line. By 2010, the combined buying power of Asians, blacks and Native Americans will be $1.7 trillion, and Hispanics' economic clout will be nearly 1.1 trillion, according to predictions by the Selig Center for Economic Growth. Creating a workplace that mirrors their customer base can help business tap into this enormous buying power.

The costs of neglecting diversity

Ignoring diversity can be catastrophic to a company, contributing to increased turnover and absenteeism, lower productivity among employees, and expensive lawsuits.

Discriminatory hiring practices can cost a company millions. In one particularly high-profile 2004 case, Abercrombie and Fitch paid $50 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the company of race discrimination, including firing minority workers or forcing them to work in stockrooms.

Marketing diversity

Job seekers and employers share a crucial role in increasing corporate diversity. More than 27 percent of diverse workers told they don't market themselves as diverse candidates.

Thirty percent of diverse workers say a competitive salary is the best way for companies to entice diverse candidates, according to the survey. Career advancement opportunities and stability and profitability of the organization also ranked high on the list.

Candidates looking for diversity-friendly companies can start by examining Fortune's "Best companies for minorities" and "Best companies for women" lists, as well as Diversity Inc's "Top 50 companies for diversity" list.

Company Web sites are also a great source for information about a company's commitment to diversity. Many Web sites have a special page devoted to the business's diversity programs and initiatives. In addition, be sure to look through the company's partnerships, affiliations and press releases. If the company has no Web site or no information is available, inquire about the company's diversity at the interview.

Last Updated: 05/11/2008 - 1:03 PM

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