Diversity Survey 2006: Diversity from the top down

The PR industry's battle for diversity needs to be fought at all levels, from the C-suite to the classroom. Tonya Garcia and Randi Schmelzer report on the 2006 PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Diversity Survey

The PR industry's battle for diversity needs to be fought at all levels, from the C-suite to the classroom. Tonya Garcia and Randi Schmelzer report on the 2006 PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Diversity Survey

It's a subject with which all businesses are struggling: how to diversify the staff to meet the needs of the country's constantly changing demographics. Though advances have been made, plenty of work has yet to be done, both communications and HR pros agree.

By the year 2050, there will be no ethnic majority in the US, according to US Census Bureau predictions. And that, according to MaryLee Sachs, chairman of Hill & Knowlton USA, means companies that intend to survive and thrive must make drastic shifts in recruiting and retaining practices.

"If we're supposed to be communicating with the public, surely we have to be reflective of the population and understand how to communicate with them," Sachs says.

One of the most significant assets of achieving a culturally diverse PR firm, she adds, is that it provides both management and clients with a broader-based thinking pool.

"I cannot imagine why PR pros wouldn't see this as a critical aspect of doing business," Sachs says.

That sentiment is echoed by professionals throughout private and public sectors in this year's fourth annual PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Diversity Survey, an assessment of 325 PR and HR practitioners representing agencies and companies of all industries and sizes.

Though a majority of respondents concur that "the PR industry has a problem with the lack of diversity" (59.2%), survey results do not display any enormous shifts in terms of proactivity since 2005.

"Our entire society is changing, evolving, and becoming really diverse," says Anita Lewis, legislative program manager, office of government relations and compliance at Health Partners, and a founding member of the Black Public Relations Society (BPRS) of Philadelphia.

That's reflected in the survey results, as well: Among 2006 respondents employed by publicly traded corporations or private companies, an overwhelming majority noted that it was "very important" or "somewhat important" to diversify their workplaces in order, for example, to "ensure that ideas are coming from a broad range of perspectives" (78.1%) and to "ensure the company produces relevant products/services for an ethnically diverse population" (60.3%).

Exposing minorities to PR

Regardless - and even though minority consumers spending billions - many companies are still unable to relate and connect. So the question remains: What will it take for cultural change in the workplace to become a reality?

To address this, Lewis says, more diverse employees must be brought into companies - especially PR firms - at all levels. But the mission is easier said than done, according to survey results: Respondents noted that there has "not been enough exposure to PR to minorities at high school and college levels" and that "minorities aren't encouraged to be interested in the field."

That's no excuse, Lewis says. "It's our obligation to be part of the next generation of leaders. It's about getting to young people in college who need mentors the most."

In addition to aggressively reaching out to the students attending the region's many colleges and universities to participate in professional-development workshops and networking opportunities, the Philadelphia BPRS helps companies fill internship roles with qualified minority candidates whom they might not otherwise reach.

When a PR pro in the position to genuinely help a student of diverse background via mentoring and advice feels he or she doesn't have anything in common with that student - and perhaps would be "more comfortable" working with a candidate more like himself - Lewis urges a look at the obvious.

"Why don't we start with the fact that we're both communications professionals?" she suggests.

"The future is multi-racial; people who aren't on that bandwagon are going to be left behind," agrees Howard Bragman, principal at LA-based Fifteen Minutes. "People of different backgrounds all bring different things to the table."

Bragman says that when searching for new staffers, "I go out of my way to do things that will get me a good candidate pool." That means going beyond the usual sources, he says, and contacting universities, posting calls on Web sites, and asking for references among "nontraditional" contacts.

"One can come up with excuses for not hiring [diverse employees]," Bragman says. But those agencies "willing to invest and develop young people" with strong basic skills "are going to be better PR firms because of it."

"Agencies in particular don't have to do enormous programs to [start] increasing diversity in the workplace," concurs Sachs. "They can start with small incremental steps, smaller initiatives to start making a difference."

According to the survey, activities currently undertaken to increase ethnic diversity among PR agency staff include outreach to schools with diverse populations (38.5%); the implementation of new hiring policies (6.7%); sponsorship of career workshops (7.3%); and internship programs (45.8%). However, compared to last year's results, almost all in-house efforts to increase staff diversity have dropped in the past year, and only 15.1% report plans to implement new diversity-increasing programs within the next year.

Staff involvement

Many PR firms, however, have put together a raft of formal plans to up the diversity of their staffs. For them, it is almost the cost of doing business in this environment.

Denise Gordon, US head of HR at H&K, reports that in 2006, her firm has been actively involved in ethnically diverse PR and journalism-association job fairs, including those hosted by BPRS, the Unity Conference, and the National Association of Black Journalists.

H&K plans to increase its participation in 2007 with a "more purposeful recruiting calendar and schedule ... really getting our staff involved - not just our diverse staff, but all our staff - on a really grassroots level," says Gordon.

Ketchum, too, has made significant diversity efforts in the past year, says Carol Cincotta, the firm's SVP, HR director. Among other agency-wide initiatives, Ketchum offers a "mentor day" program, in which employees "mentor a group of students from a variety of historically black colleges for a day to showcase the profession, as well as to provide career counseling."

Additionally, Cincotta adds, as part of its campus-recruitment program, Ketchum plans to partner with the PRSA on a national "diversity buddy program" the group is launching in 2007, and will continue its internship relationships with Howard University and the Council of PR Firms.

The PRSA, too, offers regional and national mentoring and shadowing opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds hoping to enter the communications workforce, according to Lori George Billingsley, PRSA's multicultural communications section chair.

Established in 1989, PRSA's multicultural scholarship program annually recognizes two students of color for outstanding academic achievement and commitment to the practice of PR, Billingsley says. This year, the organization added a second component. Now, "each scholarship recipient is assigned a mentor from the section's executive board," she says. "These recipients then become part of the talent pipeline we're able to offer to firms and companies looking to increase diversity in their ranks."

It starts with the CEO

Diversity efforts won't have real impact, however, without C-suite support, says Curtis Crawford, president and CEO of Santa Clara, CA-based executive consultancy XCEO and author of Compliance & Conviction: The Evolution of En- lightened Corporate Governance.

"Companies use many efforts to create an understanding among employees," Crawford says. "Diversity days, sensitivity groups to raise awareness: these are wonderful, important, and valuable. But I do not believe you can enlighten people to the point they [will be] driven to change without action mandated from the very top."

CEOs who want a diverse organization for whatever reason - be it that government contracts demand it, or that it's "the right thing to do" socially - must treat diversity as a measurable business objective, much like reducing a sales budget, Crawford explains.

"Tell [a sales executive] to just reduce his sales budget, it'll never happen," Crawford says. "You say, 'Here's your budget.'"

This from-the-top approach is a main reason corporations such as PepsiCo have been so successful in their cultural-evolution efforts. Diversity is in that company's very DNA, Crawford says.

Since October, Indian-born Indra Nooyi has served as PepsiCo's CEO and president. She also ranks 28th on Forbes' 2006 list of The World's Most Powerful Women. In her former role as PepsiCo president and CFO, Nooyi spearheaded its acquisitions of Quaker Oats and Tropicana. Equally as important, though, she sets an example of inclusion for employees of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

That's crucial in today's competitive work environment, Crawford says. In order to hire and retain the most qualified people, companies must draw on all sources available - and make them feel at home.

That might mean changing recruiting practices by focusing on different sets of schools, Crawford says, or "being more creative about how you bring people on board ... Don't expect to continue to do things the way you always have done them and produce different results."

When companies start to make cultural changes, Crawford says, they will find themselves in a place "of different perspectives, backgrounds, and attitudes around issues. And that drives innovation, creativity, and ideas because we all don't drink the same bath water."

Richard Kline, LA-based regional president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, recalls a long-ago client meeting in which he realized the need to have people on his team "who represent a rainbow, so you can truly understand, live, speak, and feel the markets that we reach."

"That was one of the most impactful moments of my PR career," Kline says. "It's critical that we reflect the communities that we serve, reflect the individuals to whom we're reaching out. It's vital for PR agencies and corporations to have a diverse staff that truly is representative of the market."

But the fundamental challenges of running a firm in the short term at times outweigh issues that might be essential to long-term business success. According to survey results, some agency leaders perceive diversity as a project that can wait. Among respondents currently employed by a PR firm, only 55.9 % reported that "to reflect the diversity of the population" was a legitimate reason to employ an ethnically diverse workforce. Less than half (46.4%) believed "to develop programs for diverse populations" was a good reason.

"That's what's scary about the survey itself - firms that agree with the statement that 'no specific efforts [were] taken' at all to increase diversity among staff," notes Sachs.

Though just 34.1% of PR agency-employed survey respondents said their staff made no efforts to diversify in 2006, a little under half (45.2%) of the corporate-side respondents answered similarly.

Good for business

That isn't an issue at IndyMac, where diversity has been considered among core corporate values since the mortgage-lender's inception, says Grove Nichols, director of corporate communications.

"IndyMac is a strict meritocracy where people are rewarded based on performance," he says. "There is no blowing smoke. Whoever can add value will be listened to and will be successful, regardless of background or orientation."

Among IndyMac's diversity initiatives, the bank monitors the ethnic and gender composition of its workforce in comparison to regional census data, competing financial institutions, and companies in general, Grove says. It also tailors its benefits programs to meet its employees' needs, and publishes an annual diversity report both internally and publicly.

"Considering the business we're in, we must mirror the community in which we work," adds Bachul Koul, project manager, corporate communications and culture. "Buying a home is the greatest dream of every person in America, but it's also a long, arduous process. It's helpful to have someone with the same perspective, someone to identify and connect with."

Koul says IndyMac encourages its senior management to look into individual business groups and find out if diversity can be added within departments, as well as which employees could use extra training to move to the next level. The bank also coordinates regional "diversity potluck lunches," so staffers can "share a piece of their culture" with workplace peers, he adds. "What better way to bring people together than food?"

As part of Manning Selvage & Lee's efforts to diversify its own employee base, the agency created a virtual team in charge of educating staff members about how they could help clients - and each other - with diversity insight, says Vickie Fite, MD, Los Angeles, and the first Latina to head the LA office.

The team's initiatives include surveying already on-staff employees to determine potentially overlooked diversities and passions, as well as distributing a monthly diversity-insights newsletter. The letter, Fite says, includes "nuggets of information" to assist executives in looking at audiences from a diverse perspective." They are meant to help employees "very creatively and strategically break out from mainstream media and think about diversity projects."

As part of the firm's diversity recruiting efforts, MS&L partners with organizations such as the PRSA and the Lagrant Foundation, as well as schools including the University of Southern California, to seek out bilingual interns and job candidates, Fite says. But it also makes a point of keeping its diversity practices from becoming too niche, she adds, so employees don't get pigeonholed.

"We want to walk the walk," Fite says. "Everything we do sets a tone."

For the past several years, global food and facilities-management contractor Sodexho has placed diversity in the workplace as a top priority for company growth and sustainability, and encouraged inclusion in every aspect of its business, says Jaya Bohlmann, the corporation's VP of PR.

"Diversity has really been the mindset of our leadership," she says. "It's woven into the structure of this company on all levels."

Sodexho's executive-driven diversity programs range from recruitment and retention, to its Diversity Leadership Council and cross-division networking groups, Bohlmann adds.

These initiatives are vital to the company, she explains, because as a food-service organization with offices in 76 countries - and more than 110,000 employees in the US alone - "our people are our product. Our employee base must match our customer base."

To effect cultural change, the company starts by posting job calls at various minority employment sites (as do 16.4% of survey respondents, up from 7% in 2005). It also works with current staffers on personal action plans for "getting the most out of their careers," Bohlmann says. In fact, 15% of Sodexho managers' bonuses "are tied to how well the company does in terms of recruiting and promoting minorities," she adds.

According to Bohlmann, the company has established five minority-employee network groups - African American, Pan Asian, gay lesbian and transgender, women's, and Latino - each designed to serve as outlets for training and networking, and to provide access and mentoring from senior-level executives.

Sodexho also conducts a two-and-a-half-day Spirit of Diversity Training program for all its manager-level employees, featuring content that touches upon issues far beyond EEO compliance rules. "The more understanding we have about our differences, the more effectively we can work together," Bohlmann explains.

Thanks to these initiatives and others, today, more than half of all Sodexho's new hires "are likely to represent a minority group or come from another country," she notes. By 2010, that percentage is expected to rise to 70%. "When we think about how the US population is changing," Bohlmann continues, "it really just makes sense for a company to keep up."

Overcoming the 'baggage'

Still, the word diversity itself "has 20 years of baggage," says Seattle-based executive consultant Ron Carucci, founding partner with Passages Consulting, and author of Leadership Divided: What Emerging Leaders Need To Know and What You Might Be Missing.

"[The] "annual diversity flu shot - 'here's what you can't say around gender issues and how not to break a Title VII law' - doesn't get at the issue anymore," he says.

"People of color and [other] minorities are going to startups and entrepreneurial firms because they want to do their own things, and go where they can contribute their voices and be heard," adds Carucci. To change that, companies need to deliberately cross boundaries, "give a voice to others beyond the normal group, and have more conversational sessions," he says. "It's sometimes hard, rough, and messy," but it's the only way for companies to become the employers of choice for a diverse workforce.

Stacey Johnes, principal at LA-based Media Tonic, says that clients who don't see the important of having a diverse workforce - and diverse PR representatives - are missing out on tremendous opportunities for exposure.

While her first concern in hiring is finding the most competent person for the job, Johnes says, employees must also offer a "realistic representation of your city, We're not all upper-middle class white people, because that's not all the audiences we're trying to reach."

One corporation that's become very savvy about the makeup of both its consumer audience and its staff is the MGM Mirage, which initially declared diversity a "moral and business imperative" in May 2000. Since then, the issue has only grown in importance, says Debra Nelson, VP of corporate diversity, communications and community affairs, and a member of the chief diversity affairs roundtable at Cornell University.

With executive-level commitment - and a board chaired by former US Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman - the Las Vegas-based corporation created an infrastructure "to ensure that diversity would have a solid platform on which to grow," Nelson says. Today, 50% of MGM Mirage's entire workforce is diverse, ethnically as well as in terms of "lifestyle and language, psychographics, and demographics," Nelson says.

The cornerstone of its program is its MGM Mirage Diversity Champion Training, three intense days of learning designed to "instill a culture of shared values throughout our workforce," Nelson says. In settings of fewer than 30 staffers - made up of a cross-section of the MGM Mirage's 70,000 employees - trainees "learn to connect emotionally and intellectually" via lectures and role-playing exercises, reading and talking, Nelson says.

The process "enables employees to be introspective and confront opinions and values, wherever they might have come from, then share them with colleagues," as in-house advocates for the company, Nelson says. "We really see a metamorphosis take place here."

Creating a diverse workplace is not only "the right thing to do," Nelson says. It also offers the MGM Mirage a competitive advantage, among both potential job candidates and consumers.

"We know our world is becoming more diverse, she says. "We believe diversity supports overall business growth now and in the future. It's vitally important."

H&K's Sachs says changing business models and increased globalization are making diversity an even more important goal.

"When you think of where the US is in terms of global markets, and where the US will actually be over the next 20 years, it will not be one of the fastest-growing markets," she says. "They are [the markets] we don't necessary understand. How will we, unless we have more diversity?"

The PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Diversity Survey was conducted by PRWeek and Millward Brown. E-mail notification was sent to approximately 7,825 PR and corporate professionals and a total of 325 executives (179 from PR agencies and 146 from corporations) completed the survey online between October 16 and November 2, 2006.

Results aren't weighted. Based on the sample size, the results are statistically tested at a confidence level of 90%. This report provides selected highlights. Full results - offering some additional raw data - are available in Excel format for $150. Please contact lisa.lamotta@prweek.com .


In their own words

Why do you think the PR industry has a lack of diversity?

"There isn't a strong push at the middle and high school levels to teach and require strong writing skills in many urban schools. Minorities then go into college without the passion for writing."

"The minority population segments ... lack the mentoring advantages, family role models, and networking connections that others have and exploit."

"Large firms seem to have a tin ear with regard to 'minority' culture, especially African-American. Many firms, including mine, have a lack of experience/ability in reaching into minority media."

"For the past 40 years, there has not been enough emphasis, beginning at the elementary school level in our society, in developing the communications and writing skills of students, especially those of minorities."

"The best diverse candidates are attracted to other professions."

"The leadership within the industry is still unknown to the diverse populations. The PR industry has and still is traditionally white/Caucasian."

"Most PR agencies are small. Most corporate PR departments are small. That means they often give themselves a pass from the need to be diverse. Guess what: Add up all those small outfits with no minorities and you get a very imbalanced profession."

Note: This question was answered by those who stated that the PR industry does have a lack of diversity

Portraits of diversity: Pepsi

The taste of diversity is located on the snack aisle of your local supermarket: Lay's chile limon flavored potato chips, Mountain Dew Code Red cherry flavored soda, and Funyuns wasabi onion flavored rings.

"All of these are products that come out of a workforce that understands the changing consumer base," says Mark Dollins, SVP of PR at PepsiCo. "It's a way of doing business that allows us to grow."

For PepsiCo, diversity is essential to daily business. Due to shifts in US demographics, the company has worked towards incorporating a changing workforce, a more diverse palate, and a variety of personal experiences into what it does.

And it leads by example. In addition to the company's appearance on DiversityInc's Top Companies for Diversity list, it lists a plethora of efforts on the "timeline of diversity" section on its Web site, and with newly minted CEO Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo is led by one of business' top South Asian women.

All these factors mean that PepsiCo is a frequent voice in the diversity debate, and its role as such is revealed by a separate study performed by Hill & Knowlton, its new Influencer Network Analysis (INA) program. INA maps the relationships between the people, organizations, and brands discussed in media coverage, focusing on any given topic to determine the major players in the debate - positive and negative.

Explains Dollins, "Our company looks at diversity and inclusion as a marathon. This is not a short-term project. To make something central to the way you do business is a long-term commitment."

Diversity is not just about bringing in minorities, but also fostering an inclusiveness that gives voice to all groups across race, age, and social spectrums.

PepsiCo has systematized its diversity practices to a extensive degree. There's mandatory workforce training to make sure everyone knows what diversity and inclusion means to the company. Employee network groups based on commonalities among staffers are meant to encourage the flow of ideas. The Diversity and Inclusion Governance Council gathers leaders from across the company to set goals that eventually get back to the CEO.

And each of the senior executives takes responsibility for a particular employee group, making sure that their interests are represented at the highest levels.

"[We have] an enormous focus on creating an environment where people feel valued and engaged," says Dollins. "If we have this inclusive environment, we can truly unleash innovation."

Innovation plus inclusion equals wasabi-flavored onion rings - and big bucks. PepsiCo has been able to track how their diversity is paying off in sales numbers. Dollins says the efforts have "added literally hundreds of millions to our top-line growth."

The PR department, responsible for both internal and external communications, makes sure that the word about Pepsi's diversity initiatives gets out. There are multicultural PR programs and the daily electronic newsletter, the PEPline, publishes "Focus" issues that talk about developments from the Diversity and Inclusion Governance Council.

"At Pepsi, a priority is growth," says Dollins. "When you have a commitment and it runs throughout the organization, the PR and communications functions will help drive it."

H&K's INA study on diversity pinpointed an array of thought leaders, or prominent players, in the topic of diversity in business. These include serious companies with serious objectives, as well as more off-the-wall stories: Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm; Chicago mayor Richard Daley; the Dow Jones News Service; and Michael Scott, the main character on the NBC hit television show The Office, cited for the episode about office diversity day.

In conversations PRWeek has conducted with notable names from academia, politics, and business, diversity took many definitions and was addressed in myriad ways. As the US population continues to change, it will remain a topic of conversation. The Portraits of Diversity featured on this and the following pages will describe some more of the people and organizations who will be moderating that discussion.

Portraits of diversity: Harvard University

The country collectively gasped in January 2005 when the president of one of the world's foremost institutions of higher learning made a speech that some interpreted as a statement against the inherent ability of women to excel in math and science careers.

Harvard University president Larry Summers had already clashed with the Afro-American studies department, leading to the departure of distinguished professors like Cornel West. In 2003, the department introduced a new name, African and African American studies, a reshaped curriculum, and five new faculty members.

But it was that speech at a conference titled "Diversifying the Science and Engineering Work Force" that generated fierce anger on campus and a barrage of media coverage. Summers resigned in February after five years in his position. The plethora of media coverage around these issues has given Harvard a prominent place on H&K's INA study on diversity in corporate America.

"It did catalyze things in an important way," says Lisa Martin, professor of government and senior advisor to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), the latter a position created in July 2005. Martin reviews most of the hiring decisions for the FAS, which accounts for about 700 professors, half the total number on campus. (The FAS was expected to vote no confidence for Summers before he stepped down.)

"A lot of people assumed that diversity issues weren't that big a deal anymore," she continues. "[But] over the past couple of years, we've realized that this isn't a problem that we could just consider solved."

Since the speech debacle, the FAS has instituted a number of programs to create an environment that will facilitate a greater number of tenured minority professors. There is now greater access to child care, a new maternity leave policy was enacted in July that allows eight weeks of leave and parental teaching relief, and a formal mentoring program for women and minorities in junior faculty positions has been added.

"If you want to have a diverse faculty, you need to [devote] constant attention to the issue of diversity," says Martin.

All of these changes were documented in the first-ever Annual Report of the Senior Advisor to the Dean on Diversity Issues, authored by Martin and presented in November.

"It hadn't been done before and it ruffled a few feathers," says Martin. "We have a much greater commitment to transparency and data collection."

One of Summers' goals had been to make changes to Harvard's culture. He's no longer heading the esteemed university, but it is making strides to move forward nonetheless.

Portraits of diversity: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)

At the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, a young freshman senator from Illinois took the stage and gave a speech that still has people fired up.

Today, the chatter about the presidential prospects for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is almost deafening, especially when augmented by the work he is doing to publicize his new book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on the American Dream.

"Whether he decides to run for higher office or not, the challenge is making sure that people across the state know that the senator is paying attention to issues close to home," says Julian Green, Sen. Obama's press secretary.

Obama is Congress' only black senator, and Green is one of only a few minorities in a press secretary role. Sen. Obama is featured in H&K's diversity INA.

"Certainly, I would love to have more members of a minority background in the Senate, and certainly with the changing culture in this country, that will happen," says Green.

"Being one of a few minorities doesn't affect [Sen. Obama] at all. It has nothing to do with diversity or me being a minority. It has to do with my ability. With 10 years' experience in PR, I have been able to perform at a level that is consistent with a boss whose notoriety is a little atypical of a US senator."

Nearly 40% of the population in Chicago is African-American. A top diversity issue in Illinois is making sure that people throughout the corporate and governmental sectors, including those at the uppermost levels, reflect the communities that they're servicing.

To that end, the late Mayor Harold Washington, during his tenure, issued an executive order that Mayor Richard M. Daley, who took office in 1989, made law, ensuring contracts for minority businesses.

Another issue is the minimum wage. Just recently, the Illinois state legislature became one of the first states in the nation to pass a minimum wage hike ($1 per hour) that will go into effect by July 2007.

"Certainly, I think that will help a number of minorities - blacks, Latinos, and women - make a living wage and raise a family," says Green.

For Obama's press secretary, the question of diversity can be answered with more empathy, which will keep the American Dream an attainable goal for all.

"When we talk about diversity, it shouldn't be viewed as a hand out, but rather a hand up," adds Green. "When you step in other people's shoes and make decisions because it's the right thing to do, I think we'll find that diversity will come naturally."

And what about an Obama run for the White House? Of course, Green remains mum on the subject. It's clear, however, that Illinois' senator has touched the population in a way that few politicians in office have.

"Over the past 18 months, the senator has spoken to a number of issues that people have been attracted to with his message of hope, a change in the old guard, and politics where people can disagree without being disagreeable," says Green.

Portraits of diversity: Sylvia Ann Hewlett

H&K's diversity INA identified a key player in the diversity debate who is well-known for her work on gender as well as ethnic diversity.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is founder and president of the New York nonprofit Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), as well as head of the Gender & Policy Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She spends much time analyzing the gambit of modern workplace issues. In the area of diversity, she, along with Carolyn Buck Luce, head of the global pharma sector at Ernst & Young, and Princeton professor Cornel West, created the Hidden Brain Drain task force, which looks at issues facing women and minorities over the course of their careers.

Together, they published an article in the November 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review looking at minorities, especially minority women, in leadership roles. They found that many minorities exhibit leadership skills outside of their job roles - with charities or faith-based organizations - which go largely unrecognized and untapped in the office.

The CWLP has also done research on women as a whole. In March 2005, Hewlett and Luce wrote a separate article, "Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success," also published in the Harvard Business Review, and entered the lexicon used in the discussion of women in the workforce.

In its first decade, the CWLP focused on public policy and work-life balance, says Hewlett.

In 2003, however, the organization decided to focus on the private sector.

Since zeroing in on the "brain drain" taking place at corporations (the increasing number of qualified women who decide to give up their professions), Hewlett's group has discovered that many women who leave the workforce want to eventually rejoin it in order to resume something they enjoy.

"In our focus groups, women talked eloquently about how work gives shape and structure to their lives, boosts confidence and self-esteem, and confers status and standing in their communities," Hewlett and Luce wrote in their article. They found that only 74% of those who leave actually return.

Some of the suggestions for stemming this tide include positions with flexible hours, removing penalties for those who take advantage of work-life policies, and creating mentoring and networking programs to foster ambition.

In response, Hewlett says, Lehman Brothers created the ENCORE initiative, which helps women return to the financial sector.

"We think that most progressive firms have dealt successfully with the first generation of policy," Hewlett told PRWeek. "Now the second challenge is to fully realize women and minority talent."

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