Diversity now vital to Corporate America, executives say
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Diversity is taking on new meaning in Corporate America as globalization changes the business landscape and forces companies to leverage their diversity. That was the message diversity executives from IBM, PepsiCo, Wal-Mart and Hewitt Associates delivered Friday at a lecture at Wake Forest University Schools of Business.
“Celebrating and understanding differences is no longer enough. You have to know how to leverage those differences,” said Andres Tapia, chief diversity officer at Hewitt Associates. “I like to say that diversity is the mix, and inclusiveness is making the mix work well.”
The panel, presented by the Broyhill Family Foundation, was moderated by Dean of Business Steve Reinemund, the only former Fortune 100 CEO who currently heads a top business school. During his six years as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Reinemund implemented a broad range of diversity policies that analysts credit for much of the company’s success. He is now leading the charge to attract a more diverse student body to the University.
At the panel discussion, part of Wake Forest’s 2010 Marketing Summit, the executives applauded higher education’s efforts to broaden students’ understanding of diversity. “This is the forum for creating the debate and finding solutions to huge problems we continue to have,” said Esther Silver-Parker, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, pointing to a recent New York Times article about African-American men “whitening” their resumes. “People are too often still in the mindset of mirror image, being more comfortable with people who look like they look, and think like they think.”
Ronald C. Parker, chief global diversity and inclusion officer for PepsiCo, advised students to learn to hit their “personal reset button” and find new ways of looking at the world. “Diversity goes beyond race and gender,” he said. “It’s about innovation, collaboration and agility.”
Ronald C. Glover, vice president of diversity and workforce programs for IBM, had the final word for students. “Your competition – the talent the world needs – is everywhere now,” he said, adding that “the world is less forgiving of those of you who can’t keep up.”