News Column

New Economics and Markets Define Diversity

January/February 2003, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Jesús Chavarría, Editor & Publisher

Most business managers hope 2002 won't go down as a trend-setting year. A string of statistics – from the 16.8 percent drop of the Dow Jones to a record $368 billion lost in public-company bankruptcies – confirm that last year was a dark blip on the radar screen, a one-time aberration from the U.S. economy's 1990s boom. But in the field of corporate diversity, the 2002–2003 season may mark a time of change.

That's because economically, the U.S. has turned the corner already – the recession officially ended in the third quarter of 2001, according to the Commerce Department. However, a jobless recovery – the type expected by many economists – has put new pressures on minority corporate professionals and entrepreneurs. Traditionally, "diversity" in Corporate America has focused on hiring minorities and mentoring them in the company's culture. With few or no new jobs to offer, corporate diversity programs have little choice but to redefine their mission.

The Hispanic Business Corporate Diversity Survey, debuting in this issue, addresses this issue by taking a comprehensive view of diversity efforts. The survey targets corporations that allot more than $5 million of their marketing budgets to reach Hispanics. By recognizing the power of the Hispanic market, these companies have laid the foundation for inclusion and diversity. The questions in the survey ask how public companies complete the circle of economic empowerment – from minority consumers to minority employees to minority suppliers.

Another trend in corporate diversity involves the strategic value of minority leadership within the corporation. The Hispanic Business Corporate Diversity Survey looks at Hispanic representation in the boardroom and the executive suite, as well as among entry-level workers. Even mainstream media such as Fortune magazine now acknowledge the importance of minority executives; in 2002, for the first time, Fortune's "Best Companies for Minorities" list included data on managers and officials.

Newfound interest in diversity by mainstream media and corporations bodes well for the future of the U.S. economy. The PricewaterhouseCoopers diversity summit (see "In Pursuit of a Bias-Free Workplace," in this issue) provides research on and advice to the accounting firm's enormous client base. Sponsorship of the event by such a prestigious firm underscores how quickly diversity has grown from a cottage consulting industry to a mainstream business imperative.

Presentations at the PricewaterhouseCoopers summit show that the old rationales for diversity, such as discrimination and barriers to promotion, remain valid. The growing wealth and sophistication of the Hispanic market add supplier diversity and board diversity to the mix. With the inevitable improvement in the economy, corporations will emerge from the slowdown with comprehensive, 21st-century diversity programs.


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