Diversity in the Workplace: Signs of Change, but a Long Way to Go
Knowledge at Wharton and Nightly Business Report recently collaborated on a project to measure the progress made in achieving workplace diversity — and the implications of this not only for minorities, but for corporate America as a whole. While the qualities that make a company truly diverse are harder than ever to define, the consequences of failure are more obvious. “What gets sacrificed,” says one economist, “is a very simple notion of fairness and justice.” In this special section, we look at the characteristics of an effective diversity program, interview diversity experts and analyze the companies that are ‘best-in-class’ when it comes to diversity initiatives and commitment. We also report on a presentation at the Whitney M. Young Memorial Conference by Jamaican-born Michael Lee-Chin, head of a Canadian mutual fund, who recently bought a bank in his native country that he hopes will promote greater prosperity in the local community.
Knowledge at Wharton and Nightly Business Report interviewed leading diversity experts on the characteristics of an effective diversity program and looked at which companies are doing the best at meeting certain standards and why. While no one claims that discrimination has been anywhere near eliminated, Weldon J. Rougeau, a long-time civil rights activist, points to “tangible signs that the world is changing.”
In the Knowledge at Wharton and Nightly Business Report collaboration on diversity in the workplace, several companies stood out as the best-in-class. Knowledge at Wharton profiles three very different organizations whose diversity initiatives suggest a commitment not just to employees, but to customers and communities.
For nearly two decades, Michael Lee-Chin’s approach to investing helped his company, AIC, grow into one of Canada’s largest sellers of mutual funds. But lately, AIC’s performance has slumped and the Jamaican-born Lee-Chin has faced shrinking fund assets and declining customers. Speaking at the recent Whitney M. Young Memorial Conference, he said that during his firm’s recent difficulties he has drawn inspiration from a painting depicting slave women that hangs on the wall of his home. “The people in the painting … didn’t have the opportunity to dream, to control their future, to have ambition and freedom,” he said. “All of us are the product of their efforts, and we can’t let them down.” One way Lee-Chin has tried to repay that debt is by purchasing a 75% stake in Jamaica’s National Commercial Bank. Lee-Chin said he sees tremendous opportunity in the region, and he is focused on spurring the bank’s growth along with that of the Jamaican economy.