It is well understood that diversity is good for business. In fact, variety in the background and experience of both workers and managers reliably enlarges the range of choices and therefore improves the quality of decisions in nearly all kinds of organizations.
Despite this, many executives have struggled to make their organizations more inclusive and reap the benefits of diverse competencies brought by men and women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and abilities.
The Benchmarks Initiative grows out of a 2007 McCormack Graduate School survey that found an overwhelming preponderance of white males on Massachusetts boards of directors. Now greatly expanded, the Initiative asks organizations of all kinds – corporate, non-profit, even governmental – to measure themselves annually on a detailed grid of 25 standards.
Promoting the goals of diversity and inclusion is at the heart of Commonwealth Compact. More than 265 of the state’s leading corporations, nonprofit institutions, cultural initiatives, colleges, universities, and other organizations have joined this effort.
In addition, Commonwealth Compact has put together a series of benchmarks designed to help organizations measure their progress in taking advantage of diversity from year to year. We also provide resources to help organizations become more productively diverse over time.
In the first year, Commonwealth Compact received Benchmarks data from 111 organizations. Information from individual organizations is guaranteed confidentiality but the data was aggregated and an analysis, Stepping Up, was released in May 2009.
Overall, persons of color represent 34% of all employees in the group, an encouraging number, but the report also pointed to many steps that could improve the numbers:
While 97% said they are actively engaged in diversity efforts, only 49 percent of CEOs say they are satisfied with the diversity of their leadership team.
In the healthcare and for-profit sector, the proportion of minority employees in lower level jobs was more than double the proportion in manager or officer positions. The education sector did better but the proportion there was only slightly less than double.
In general, the stronger the mechanism to push diversity goals, the less likely it was to be used. An organization was far more likely to advertise for a job opening in an ethnic newspaper than to require that the pool of candidates contain at least one person of color.
Fewer than half of the organizations had specific programs for reaching out to minority or female-owned vendors. Still, the author of the report and the leaders of the Commonwealth Compact agree that the willingness of so many organizations to collect and submit data indicates an appetite in Massachusetts to face diversity issues squarely and make real progress.