Business Case for Diversity

As the demographics of Oregon and southwest Washington change, businesses will have to transform their organizations to meet the competitive challenges that the new consumers bring, with their discriminating interests and product preferences. The region’s businesses will need to employ individuals who understand how diverse populations thrive and who can provide effective communications, develop strong product lines, actively pursue business relationships with minority- and women-owned firms, and build trust and loyalty in our brands and in our companies.

As the customers and communities we serve become increasingly diverse, so should our workforce. Diversity issues in the workplace continue to bring significant opportunities and challenges. The success or failure of businesses depends on employers’ and employees’ making diversity a significant business issue.

Of the 296 million people in the United States in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Latino population comprised 43 million people (14.4%); the African-American population was 37.9 million (12.8%); Asians and Pacific Islanders reached 13.2 million (4.5%); and Native Americans numbered 2.9 million (1.0%). A total of 4.6 million people (1.5%) were reported to be multiracial. In all, 67.2% of the U.S. population was either females or members of a minority racial or ethnic group.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projection, the total U.S. labor force is expected to increase by 8.7% between 2005 and 2014. The non-Hispanic white male labor force is expected to increase by 2% and the women and minority labor force by 12.7%. Consequently, 91.5% of the labor force added between the years 2005 and 2014 will be made up of women or people of color.

In Oregon, African-American buying power increased from $462 million in 1990 to $1.3 billion in 2005.* Asian buying power rose from $905 million in 1990 to $3.7 billion in 2005. During the same period, Latino purchasing power increased from $924 million to nearly $5 billion. Latinos are the fastest-growing market segment in Oregon.

More than half of all Oregonians were born outside the state, with 45% migrating from other states and another 9% coming from other countries, according to the 2004 American Community Survey. In 2004, 18% of Oregon’s population was made up of minority groups, and over half of these people (9.5%) were Latinos.

In light of these figures, effective businesses will embrace the changing economic and demographic environment to maintain a competitive advantage.
*All buying power is listed in 2005 dollars.

Diversity Action Plan

Many companies have made excellent efforts to advance diversity in the workplace and community. These efforts include the following diversity strategies, plans and practices that could serve as models or examples for others:

  • Ensure that each organization’s vision, mission, values and diversity policy are clearly articulated both internally and externally.
  • Assign the CEO ultimate accountability for diversity and for ensuring that every executive makes diversity a personal priority. Each organization should identify an officer with responsibility for diversity, and ensure that appropriate resources are made available.

  • Integrate measurable diversity objectives for the company into the general business objectives, with a tie to performance evaluations and management compensation.
  • Implement recruitment and retention programs for people of diverse backgrounds.
    • Create partnerships with high schools, colleges and universities.
    • Offer scholarships for underrepresented students.
    • Provide workplace internships focused on underrepresented populations.
    • Establish coaching and mentoring programs.
    • Work with professional and community-based organizations.
  • Establish ongoing diversity training programs for boards of directors, management and employees.
  • Ensure diverse representation on the organization’s board, advisory groups and committees.
  • Stimulate community and civic leadership through community relations, community service and civil engagement at all levels of the organization.
  • Establish an inclusive and welcoming work environment. Develop policies and practices that address discrimination, harassment, cultural competence, diversity, affirmative action and equal opportunity.
  • Have senior leaders communicate regularly to internal and external stakeholders about diversity priorities and progress.
  • Implement strategies to increase opportunities for contracting for construction, goods and services, professional services, public relations and community affairs.
    • Develop a dialogue with vendors, suppliers, contractors and other stakeholders.
    • Review prior activity and set targets. Establish strategies for achieving advancement.
    • Evaluate results and provide feedback.
  • Conduct a regular cultural or attitude assessment of all employees to determine the progress made.
    • Conduct employee satisfaction surveys.
    • Hold focus groups of employees.
    • Report results by workforce demographics.