Workers tend to doubt company diversity efforts

  • Associated Press
  • Friday, June 25, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

NEW YORK – Fewer than a third of American workers believe their companies have effective diversity programs, according to a report by the National Urban League.

The report, due for release on Monday, also found that fewer than half of the workers surveyed had favorable opinions of their companies’ efforts on recruiting, leadership commitment and career development.

“We have work to do,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the League, a New York-based civil rights group. “One of the reasons this study is important is it gives us a sense of where we are.”

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed agreed that diversity improves creativity and innovation in the workplace, and 80 percent said they were comfortable working in diverse teams.

But when asked if their company had an effective diversity program, only 32 percent had a favorable response, while 26 percent had a negative view of their companies’ efforts. The rest were neutral.

The results differed slightly by race. Among whites, 29 percent thought favorably of their companies’ efforts, with another 29 percent rating them negatively. Among blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and American Indians, 34 percent from each group were positive about company initiatives.

Native Americans had the highest percentage of negative feeling about diversity efforts, at 30 percent, followed by 26 percent of blacks, 25 percent of Hispanics and 23 percent of Asian Americans.

Those with the most favorable opinions of diversity programs included executives – 47 percent of whom thought their companies were effective – and employees at companies with more than 5,000 workers, where 43 percent thought favorably of the initiatives.

The report noted that the disparity in outlook between executives and rank-and-file workers “is an important reminder that executives tend to view their companies through different, perhaps rose-colored glasses.”

While the population of the country has become increasingly diverse, American companies haven’t kept up, said Fariborz Ghadar, professor of finance and director of the Center for Global Business Studies at Penn State University.

“We’ve got quite a hurdle to jump before we become a truly diverse organizational structure in many of our corporations,” he said.

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