In this historic era of company downsizing, government bailouts and spectacular corporate collapse, it would be all too easy for companies to suspend their diversity strategies.
But during times of economic malaise, maintaining a diverse workforce is more important than ever.
This month, HispanicBusiness Magazine releases its annual list of the nation's 60 most diverse companies. The index, based on an extensive survey completed in June by HispanTelligence -- the magazine's research arm -- offers up a snapshot of corporate America's top diversity beacons. The findings are as good as the data that HispanTelligence receives from an extensive survey sent out in the early part of the year. The data corresponds to several variables that are key indicators.
This year's fifth annual list shows which companies -- difficult times notwithstanding -- walk the walk when it comes to promoting diversity in its workforce, board leadership, marketing efforts and subcontractors.
The release of this year's list comes at a time when the president of the California Public Utilities Commission has advocated going above and beyond the agency's current supplier diversity goal in which 15 percent of the goods and services purchased would come from minority firms.
If successful in California, the movement to boost the percentage of supplier diversity contracts could pick up momentum across the country in the coming months.
The changes come as minority-owned and small businesses everywhere are looking to survive.
In an eerie reminder of the magnitude of last year's economic calamity, several companies on last year's list no longer even exist. They include Washington Mutual, Schering Plough and Merrill Lynch, all of which have been swallowed by other companies. Also, a careful analysis of this year's survey indicates that the nation's 60 model companies, exemplary as they are, on balance lost a little ground on maintaining a diverse workforce.
But the leaders are nevertheless laudable paragons, and while some companies have fallen off the list -- or collapsed altogether -- other notables have emerged. Newcomers to the Diversity Elite list include NV Energy, S.C. Johnson and MetLife.
Topping this year's 60 Diversity Elite is Southern California Edison, the power provider for 11 million people in the Golden State. This year marks a return to the No. 1 spot for the energy giant, which led the pack two years ago.
Last year, when Edison decided to launch a series of multicultural public service announcements in several languages, it didn't need to hire actors. Instead, the company looked to its own employees. Energized by the opportunity, some 600 employees this spring auditioned for 37 spots.
The commercials started airing in July, each featuring an Edison employee touting green-energy tips in one of several languages: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
"We operate our customer base in a very diverse region of the country," Rich Martinez, Edison's director of human resources, told HispanicBusiness Magazine. "Because of that, we leverage the diversity in the region and we have a workforce that is reflective of that diversity."
Tough Economic Times
Economic recessions tend to take a disproportionate toll on minorities and the ongoing "Great Recession of 2008" has been no exception.
During the current recession, Hispanics and African Americans have been nearly twice as likely to lose their job as whites, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington D.C. think tank. Even among the Diversity Elite, the average proportion of Hispanic employees in the past year has dipped, to 11.8 percent from 12.1 percent. Meanwhile, Hispanics make up about 15 percent of the nation's population.
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