Devalued By Diversity

Devalued By Diversity

The meaning of diversity over the last few decades has morphed from an altruistic opportunity to right the ills against black Americans in this country to a business imperative that is all-embracing of other cultures, walks of life, and sexual preferences. In many cases, the broad definition has left African Americans in corporate America feeling marginalized. At the same time, roughly 75% of the largest Fortune 500 companies have developed some sort of diversity initiative, but many are still struggling with implementation and success. According to a recent study by the nonprofit women’s organization Catalyst called Advancing African American Women in the Workplace: What Managers Need to Know, black women “judge diversity policies as having limited benefits and are pessimistic about their own opportunities to advance to senior management.” How do black employees and candidates determine whether a firm is a right fit?

Marlon D. Cousin, managing partner of the Marquin Group, an executive search firm specializing in diverse talent, offers several key factors in determining how efficiently diversity is managed in an organization. Typically, he says, the focus is on how many diverse people a company hires, but there are several other components below to consider:

Top-level positions. How many African Americans hold senior executive positions or manage large groups of people? “Typically, you hit a glass ceiling when you talk about [diverse] senior executives within an organization.”

Diversity of spending. How diverse is their marketing program and who are their vendors? How much business do they do with black companies?

Board of directors. “How many African Americans are on the board? That sends a very strong message that it’s part of their overall business strategy to lure and retain diverse talent,” Cousin says.

Cousin believes that companies do a poor job of managing diversity because they don’t hold employees accountable. “To get the majority of the people to react to diversity, you’ve got to make it part of a performance appraisal, or something that is tied to either compensation or how they’re being rated.

Otherwise, there’s not going to be this aggressive mission to do diversity.”

Vault/MCCA Guide to Law Firm Diversity Programs (Vault Inc.; $39.95) offers diversity profiles on 150 top law firms as well as descriptions of the firms’ diversity initiatives for recruiting and mentoring. The book makes the distinction between white women and minority women, but there is no break out of minority numbers (black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.). The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (www.mcca. com) is an advocacy group for minority attorneys founded in 1997. The Vault ( is a career resource guide.

“We’re providing corporate America with a direct link to the business leaders of tomorrow,” says Richard Ramsey, president of LEAD (Leadership and Education Development), of the organization’s recently launched recruiting Website, which offers companies access to its alumni. LEAD ( is an intensive summer program for high school students from diverse and underserved communities who are interested in pursuing business. Ramsey says the Website will be an important tool for companies and colleges