EDITORIAL: CEOs have to confront racial matters openly prior totackling them

Are CEOs reluctant to talk about how their companies deal with internal problems of discrimination and race relations? Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on racial issues that had come up in Ralph Lauren's empire, and cited the fashion magnate as "an unusual example of a CEO willing to address the subject in detail. Lauren detailed diversity training and changes in personnel practices, but recognized that real change is slow. He also admitted leaving most details to others in his company, but surely he's not the only corporate leader to do so.

Are CEOs reluctant to talk about how their companies deal with internal problems of discrimination and race relations? Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on racial issues that had come up in Ralph Lauren's empire, and cited the fashion magnate as "an unusual example of a CEO willing to address the subject in detail. Lauren detailed diversity training and changes in personnel practices, but recognized that real change is slow. He also admitted leaving most details to others in his company, but surely he's not the only corporate leader to do so.

It's refreshing to see an article grappling with the process by which companies learn to embrace and reflect diversity. Ralph Lauren and other companies continue to make mistakes, but lack of open discussion on these sensitive topics hinders progress.

One of senior management's biggest problems is that it may not always realize just how discrimination manifests itself within companies. Lauren noted that at a company holiday party, he was surprised that so many African-American and Hispanic staffers had congregated in another room, and wondered aloud what was alienating them. PR arms must take a lead role in unmasking tensions and educating execs on the struggles of internal audiences.

There are many excellent examples of how companies tackle these conflicts.

Conoco, which has a tradition of global cultural sensitivity, also reflects that ethic internally through its Valuing All People philosophy. In practice, this includes networking groups for African-American and Asian employees that are supported by the company.

But for every company with comprehensive programs in place, there are many others that struggle to eradicate discrimination from the workplace.

These companies should be encouraged to talk openly with employees and other stakeholders in a continuing effort to do the right thing.

Woman takes helm at Ogilvy - and PRWeek

With Marcia Silverman assuming Ogilvy PR's helm, and Marilyn Laurie, the former head of PR at AT&T, becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Arthur W. Page Hall of Fame (see p. 2), we may finally have laid to rest the ghosts of misogyny past.

In the last 10 years, talk of gender bias has focused on the top 20 firms and Fortune 500 corporate PR posts. Any notion of this in recent years would not hold water at mid-size and boutique firms or in smaller corporations, given that so many female PR pros have already succeeded in these arenas.

But with Helen Ostrowski taking Porter Novelli's top spot, Donna Imperato doing likewise at Cohn & Wolfe, MaryLee Sachs running H&K's Americas operation, and Silverman's rise at Ogilvy, any notion that there are prejudices against women at the largest agencies can surely be dismissed.

Add PRWeek to this list, as Julia Hood has been named editor-in-chief, replacing, err, me, in early October as I become Ad Age's executive editor.

Julia has done a wonderful job as our West Coast bureau chief, leading our tech reporting and driving PRWeek's increased coverage of in-house communications. Julia is wise, witty, well-connected, and has a clear vision for the magazine.

You'll have to put up with my ramblings for a few more weeks, but I wanted to let you know about PRWeek's new excellent - and female - leader.

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