In the New Office, the Minority Can Rule
By JoAnn Greco
As the overall makeup of America's population changes --
the US Census Bureau estimates that nearly 1 in 3 Americans currently claims
minority heritage -- so does the face of corporate America. That's due in part
to the increased presence of ethnic groups in the workplace, and it's got a new
breed of labor force observers predicting changes that will benefit workers who
are part of a minority group.
"Organizations that are relevant and vibrant are
leveraging the knowledge, skills, experiences and insights that diverse
employees contribute to the business environment," says Barbara L. Thomas,
past president and CEO of the 6,000-member National
Black MBA Association based in Chicago.
But not every company is as "sure [about] why they
want to employ more diverse execs," cautions Julie Jansen, an executive
coach based in Stamford, Connecticut. "So if an ethnic employee can
identify why their specific diverse characteristics are a plus, they should do
Find Your Competitive Edge
Kenneth Roldan, CEO of Wesley, Brown & Bartle, a New
York City-based executive recruiting firm that specializes in placing
minorities, agrees. "Many minorities overlook the fact that they bring an
array of strengths that can help the company grow, boost profits, and expand
its market share," he writes in Minority Rules: Turn Your Ethnicity into a Competitive Edge.
Among the tips he and co-author Gary Stern offer:
- Discover Your Identity: Instead of
worrying about "fitting in," revel in the richness you can bring
to the conference table. Nowadays having a global perspective or being bilingual is of immense value.
- Become a Minority Specialist: Stay tuned
to the specific concerns, issues and trends of interest to your social
circle "Ask your minority friends what motivates them to choose a
financial services or insurance company, buy an automobile, choose a
vacation," suggests Roldan. "Don't cut off your own
- Don't Overlook the Big Picture: Success
is still all about skills,
points out Roldan. "Use your know-how to reach [all] audiences,"
Leverage Your Connections
When job hunting, experts recommend that people of color
consider more than a company's diversity policies and staffing demographics.
They should also look at whether the company is missing opportunities.
"Regardless of the business or industry, ethnic markets are growing by
leaps and bounds," says Jansen. "Minorities should show potential
employers how they can put their cultural knowledge to use attracting and
retaining clients, customers, employees and vendors."
Once inside, don't stop working to encourage diversity,
recommends Jansen. "Ethnic employees should get actively involved in
initiating and promoting other diverse groups and individuals within their
company." she says. "One client of mine, for example, went to work
for an insurance company in asset management -- and she is starting a Hispanic
affinity networking group there."
Minorities who reach the top have an "enormous
responsibility," journalist Gwen Ifill wrote in The New York Times.
"It's more than simply being a role model. I know that I have to be a
voice for them as well."
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