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Southern California Edison (SCE) has learned to recognize and appreciate the huge diversity of its consumer base, its employees, and its potential labor market, especially in the heartland for most of its 4.8 million customers, the Los Angeles region.
"We need to know what's going on in that marketplace," says Frank Quevedo, vice-president, diversity, with the Rosemead, California-based electric utility. "We need to connect with the community we serve."
That's a common refrain among many of the 60 companies whose best practices in the field of diversity and inclusion have earned them recognition among the 2007-2008 Diversity Elite.
SCE tops the Diversity Elite list after finishing third last year.
Reaching out to neighbors, assisting different sections of their communities, and establishing in-house programs and policies for the benefit of all staff are touted by many companies as core values ... and sound business practices.
It all makes perfect sense to Jonamay Lambert, who has been in the business of diversity for 20 years. She founded Lambert & Associates, just outside Chicago, and is now national practice leader for diversity and inclusion with Capital H. Group, a human resources consultancy that bought her company late last year.
Ms. Lambert detects a "fundamental shift" in diversity attitudes driven by demographics -- growing populations of different racial and ethnic groups, greater acceptance of equal opportunities for women and the disabled, and seismic generational changes.
She says the looming retirement of millions of baby boomers is making way for a new generation that is "very different in terms of what they want," and hence in the way companies must attract, train, and retain them.
"Young people today grow up in a more diverse world and are used to that," Ms. Lambert explains. "Diversity is something they expect and want."
She lists three of the current major diversity issues as the retirement of baby boomers, increased globalization, and what she describes as the largest and fastest-growing minority -- the disabled.
With ethnic minorities heavily represented among SCE's customers, Mr. Quevedo says the company strives to be consumer friendly, for example, by translating written materials and paying extra to key staff who can speak other languages.
The company monitors leadership, recruitment, retention, promotion, and other performance measures to make sure "we're doing what we say we're doing." That starts high up: Two members of the board for SCE's parent company, Edison International, are Hispanic -- the new president of Purdue University, France Cordova, and Luis G. Nogales, managing partner of Nogales Investors.
Affinity for Support
In the first half of this year, Mr. Quevedo says 70 percent of hires were women or minorities; of just under 15,000 employees, he says close to half are minorities, with 29 percent Hispanic.
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