Global Diversity: New Business Definitions

March 2006 Volume IV Number 1

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
Key Learnings
Perspectives

II. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network
Contact Information
Sponsorship Opportunities

I. Network Presentation
A big thank you to those who took the time to attend WNSF’s luncheon panel on December 8, 2005 entitled “Redefining Diversity for Global Business,” hosted by Philips Van Heusen in New York City. The session featured speakers from Philips Van Heusen, Pfizer and Goldman Sachs discussing issues of diversity as faced in their global businesses.

Key Findings

  • The definition of diversity within business has evolved over the years and varies with location and culture.
  • As they expand worldwide, companies are considering not just how to incorporate employees of diverse backgrounds and cultures within their businesses, but also how to cater to market their products and services to them.
  • Many companies are still struggling to balance the complex relationships among employees with diverse perspectives.
  • In some locations where hiring women entails greater responsibilities for companies, they are adopting extra precautions and sometimes lobbying governments.
  • Domestically, companies are integrating diversity issues into management and working with partners who support this issue.

Perspectives

Moderator: Ann Goodman, Executive Director of WNSF.

Speakers:

  • Marcela Manubens, Vice President of Global Human Rights and CSR, Philips Van Heusen
  • Indrani Franchini, Pfizer’s corporate counsel
  • Edith Hunt, co-chief operating officer of the Human Capital Management Division, Goldman Sachs

Marcela Manubens of PVH set the stage for the afternoon discussion by outlining the evolution of the concept of business diversity historically. Diversity in the 1960s and 70s meant an “ex-pat” successfully adapting to foreign cultures but grew into the perception of including minorities in the 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, however, diversity has evolved into much more than the simple notion of “uniting the races,” with a focus on catering to various markets.

This evolution has been at work PVH, Ms. Manubens said. As an example, she spoke of a real world situation in Asia where a non-traditional Muslim woman was hired to work under the supervision of a traditional Chinese man. While the woman desired to excel in a “man’s world,” by being bold, the manager believed in a hierarchy where women play less aggressive roles. Tricky situations like this, said Ms. Manubens, can be better handled when richer concepts of diversity are integrated into management systems. She suggested several steps for companies to take, including:

  • Providing awareness training, expanding on traditional diversity training that focuses on legalities like hiring and firing, and instead stresses practical skills and strategy.
  • Adopting tools like conflict prevention and resolution.
  • Developing skills to find the most appropriate job candidates (for instance, in the example above, management may not have identified the ideal employees for the situation).
  • Applying innovative thinking.

Indrani Franchini is Pfizer’s corporate counsel and Co-Chair of the Legal Division’s Diversity Initiative, created in 2003. She stressed that “Diversity is a journey not a goal.” At Pfizer, diversity means “creating an inclusive culture where all people are valued and where their ideas are encouraged and respected.” The mission of the legal division’s program is to “be the leader among law departments in attracting, retaining and developing a diverse team of the most talented and effective colleagues to advance the interests of the businesses we support, while cultivating an inclusive and professionally-satisfying work environment.”

Ms. Franchini stressed that Pfizer’s legal division works hard to maintain a comfortable environment for all through transparent policies and standards that make it easy to understand the company’s work ethic and advancement protocol. The division has set organizational responsibilities and defined targets so that everyone can accomplish goals in line with the company’s expectations. Through training and effective communication, the legal division educates its employees as well as law firms it employs externally. Performance standards have also been set to measure progress toward goals. Currently, Pfizer is carrying out an assessment of its programs to understand what it has already done, what it is doing and what it can still do. Thus, the journey continues.

Edith Hunt, Goldman Sach’s co-chief operating officer of the Human Capital Management Division, explained the challenge of maintaining gender diversity in face of growing cultural challenges. For instance, in the company’s Banglore location, where car service must be provided to all employees, extra precautions must be taken for women employees, because local culture dictates that women may not be left alone in the car with the driver. Hence, the company has ensured that a male employee or guard is always present in the car.

While some diversity issues are specific to particular cultures, Ms. Hunt noted universal challenges for women that Goldman seeks to address:

  • Women have a harder time asserting themselves.
  • Women do not network as well.
  • Women are reluctant to talk about their accomplishments. She also elements necessary to ensure diversity integration:
  • Senior management commitment.
  • Critical mass.
  • Role models.
  • Managerial awareness.
  • Special training for women.

II. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network

The Network provides a forum for business and professional women to congregate, reflect, and act on the converging issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings and simple electronic support tools, the Network aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices on these vital workplace issues. By creating a new network of executive women, the Network seeks to improve responsible practices in workplaces; sensitize corporate culture more generally to issues of sustainability and social responsibility; and encourage a public commitment locally, nationally, and internationally to sustainability principles.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization. Gifts are tax deductible.

For more information, please contact: Ann Goodman, Executive Director Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future Please direct inquiries to: info@wnsf.org

Board of Directors:

CHAIR: Joyce LaValle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Karen Flanders, Sustainability Director, Coca-Cola Co.; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF; Sarah Howell, Director, Corporate Communications, BP; Michele Kahane, Special Projects Director, Corporate Citizenship Program, Boston College; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, Karen Flanders, Coca-Cola Director of Sustainability

This issue of Net Notes was written by Monika Kumar and edited by Ann Goodman. WNSF thanks founding sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous support.

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