Pacific Gas and Electric ranked No. 3 on the directory, telling HispanicBusiness magazine that it is the need for good customer service that drives its diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Rounding out the top 10 Best Companies for diversity are, in descending order, SCE, Comerica Bank, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bank of America, McDonald's Corp. (which was No. 1 in 2010), Union Bank (which returns to the top 10 for the first time since 2007) and Marriott International Inc.
In terms of commitment to widening opportunities for minority-owned businesses, the top 10 companies on the Corporate Diversity directory spent $31.4 billion in 2010 with minority suppliers. Such spending is important because it allows small, disadvantaged businesses to gain valuable experience and to create a track record that can help secure further contracts with corporations.
Breaking out the companies on the Corporate Diversity directory by sector shows that the list is dominated by three sectors -- energy, 10 companies; finance, 15 companies; and service, 20 companies. Automotive, manufacturing and retail firms had from three to six companies on the list. One company in the transportation sector made the list. None from the construction sector made it, but that might be because the construction sector, one in which Hispanics had made up 25 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, took a brutal hit in the Great Recession.
It has not always been easy to inculcate the idea of diversity into the corporate mind. Many viewed it as a "feel good" idea to promote but not actively pursue. A 2007 survey on diversity at businesses by the Society for Human Resource Management found that less than one-third (30 percent) of organizations had an official definition of diversity. Of those that did, large companies, those with 500 or more employees, were apt to have an official definition of diversity (43 percent of total respondents with definitions). Of medium-sized companies (100 to 499 employees) only 16 percent had a definition and of small companies (1 to 99 employees) only 14 percent did. Today, each of the top 10 firms on the Best Companies for diversity directory devotes several web pages to their diversity program and efforts.
The importance of diversity efforts in the workplace was underscored Aug. 18 when President Obama signed an executive order "to promote the federal workplace as a model of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion." The order set a 90-day deadline for development of a governmentwide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan and a 120-day deadline from issuance of the government plan for the head of each executive department and agency to develop agency-specific diversity and inclusion strategic plans.
Diversity efforts are on a fast-forward roll, and yet, in many ways, this is just the starting point for understanding what diversity is and is not. As more corporations, organizations and communities embrace the concept of diversity, it will be necessary to ask: Is diversity merely a business strategy, a way to look good in the consumer marketplace and to employees, or should there be a more all-encompassing understanding of the concept?
Beginning a dialogue among all involved in diversity efforts will be the first step toward answering these questions. From these answers and the ensuing dialogue will come a robust definition of "diversity."
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