Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘diversity

Rising Discrimination Against Muslim Workers

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A dispatch from the uglier side of the modern workplace: complaints about discrimination against Muslim workers have risen by 20 percent in the past year—and by 60 percent since 2005.

According to the New York Times, complaints from Muslim workers run the gamut “from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks.”

The likely reasons for the upsurge in complaints are all too predictable: the Times piece cites 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “the erroneous belief, held by many Americans, that the first nonwhite president is Muslim” as problems. Additionally, the brouhaha over the proposed Islamic center in Lower Manhattan (aka “the Ground Zero Mosque”) was listed as a factor, but the report noted that “complaints were increasing even before frictions erupted” on the issue.

Most distressing of all, as complaints by Muslim employees are higher now than at any time in the past ten years—including right after the 9/11 attacks. And complaints from Muslim workers now make up a quarter of all religious discrimination claims, despite the fact that the group comprises just two percent of the US population.

There’s a question—also reflected in the report—of whether the incidences of discrimination have risen, or whether people are simply reporting the incidences more. Either way, the figures clearly show that there’s a problem. The only real question, then, is what can be done about it.

Have you witnessed or been a victim of this kind of discrimination? Do you have any thoughts on what causes it or what can be done about it? Post your comments below.

Written by Phil Stott

September 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Did Goldman Break Its Diversity Policy?

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For the 11th straight year, industry insiders named Goldman Sachs the most prestigious bank in North America in Vault’s latest ranking. In hindsight then, all the public mudslinging of recent years has done little to upset the bank whether it’s in attracting the biggest deals or the best talent. And according to our survey, bankers continue to want Goldman on their resume.

Ironically, a day after the rankings debuted, the bank’s prestige is under attack by three former female employees who charge, according to The Wall Street Journal, that “The investment bank practices a system in which women are paid less, promoted less and ‘systematically circumvented and excluded.'”

Jobs, Careers and Reviews at Goldman SachsWhat’s astounding about the allegation is the repeated emphasis on intent, i.e., that the bank has a system that almost formulaically excludes women from getting promoted and compensated on par with their male counterparts. While the bank has called the suit without merit, stating that, “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” it seems it is yet again in the red with the public.

Comments from our Banking 50 survey—culled from responses submitted by over 1,300 banking professionals earlier this year—provide further perspective:

“Supportive and respectful management”

“They could do a better job of promotion as well as placement into areas that are a good fit and utilize skill sets…”

“Having come up through the ranks, from a junior trader to now an experienced one in fixed income products, I must say that I’ve been very pleased with the level of training, support and guidance that I’ve received over the years from the firm…”

“I’m a firm believer in the culture at Goldman Sachs. The firm is team-focused, emphasizing integrity and personal development within the industry.”

“I think we do a good job at getting women and diversity candidates in the door, but for real success we need to work on better retention.”

And, finally a snippet of their Diversity Mission Statement from Vault’s Annual Diversity Survey:

“The firm’s commitment to diversity is evident at the most senior levels and is driven down through the firm by way of our seventh business principle: “We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places. Advancement depends on merit and we have yet to find the limits to the responsibility our best people are able to assume. For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”

So where does this leave the banking king: A chauvinistic boys club, truly diverse with a few unintentional victims, or the victim of a ploy to take advantage of its current poor reputation? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting on Twitter @VaultCSR.

More reading: The complete WSJ report.

What other banks made the Top 10 most prestigious banks in North America this year?

Do Unlimited Vacation Days Mean Happier Employees?

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Do you like the sound of unlimited vacation days? For Social Strata, a small social media company in Seattle, Wash., this is standard company policy as of 2010. No strings attached. For the first time this year, 1% of companies are reporting a shift to an unlimited paid vacation policy while achieving high rates of productivity, retention and employee collaboration.

In an interview with NPR, cofounder Rosemary O’Neill, said, “When I said, ‘Unlimited paid leave, no strings attached,’ there was a moment of, ‘Are you punking us? Is this a joke?’ “And contrary to doubts, this change hasn’t led to mass vacationing at Social Strata. In fact, O’Neill reports that compared to last year, there was no real upswing in the number of days off requested among her staff.

Netflix has been exemplified for years for its unlimited time off policy, a strategic decision for the movie subscription service, which recently got much heat for its competitive workplace policy that rewards high achievers and fires the adequate. Its PTO policy aligns with Netflix’s unique work culture, where your commitment to high performance and over achiever status dictates your stay and progress. As VP for Corporate Communications Steve Swasey puts it, “We have engineers who work pretty much around the clock because that’s the way they work. And then they take two months to go visit family in India. We have people who never take a vacation for three years and then take a 90-day trip someplace. But they’ve earned it.”

Paid time  off policies at leading companies reflect a gradual shift toward risking unlimited  paid vacation days in the hope of increasing productivity and employee  engagement.

WorldatWork, a human resources group, released a report earlier this year that certifies that this trend is on the rise. The survey that polled 1,222 people—a majority being benefits specialists—highlights that while large organizations still prefer to go with the traditional paid time off structure (separate categories for Personal, Sick and Vacation), medium-size and small businesses are shifting to either a lump sum (referred to as the bank-type system) structure or an unlimited vacation days policy (see graph to the left).

Several studies have shown that flexible work schedules keep employees happier, more productive and highly engaged. But there remains a force of thought that doubts the unlimited nature of an unlimited vacation days’ policy: I.e., is it subterfuge for higher performance and due diligence?

Having worked for a company that followed a traditional, categorized paid time off structure ensured that I took time off at the cost of shorter vacations. However, at another previous employer that followed the bank-type system, extended vacations were great but taking an unscheduled day off due to sickness, etc., always accompanied guilt and worry. Unlimited days, then, seem to perfectly bridge the two systems allowing for guilt-free sick days and restful vacations.

In the end, an informed professional’s career path depends as much on our ability to take time off as on productivity and adeptness. And employers who value personnel must ensure a 360-degree valuation of their human capital, especially in a world where thanks to social media, 24/7 connectivity demands that professional and personal become easily malleable.

See the complete results: Survey of WorldatWork Members, May 2010

Hear from Rosemary and Ted O’Neill on Social Strata’s unlimited paid vacation policy.

What’s your take on it? As an employer, would you risk possible misuse of unlimited days off in favor of increased productivity? How does your company regulate vacation days? Leave a comment, email In Good Company or connect with me on Twitter @VaultCSR.

–Posted by Aman Singh, In Good Company

Washington Post Takes on (Lack of) Newsroom Diversity: Falling Short Could be Fatal

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Will diversity ever go out of fashion? I ask this because last week was full of surveys and reports on minority counts and how we’re continuously failing to diversify. I’d like to highlight a couple of them that not only deserve some analysis, but matter to our careers and everyday professional existence.

A new survey by executive search firm Wesley, Brown & Bartle (WB&B) paints a bleak picture for minorities in senior management ranks. According to their survey, if “an equally credentialed Black or Latino executive is one of three finalists for an open position, their respective chance of getting the job offer is not one in three but one in 33.” The survey, rightly, also points out that for executive hiring at least, the ultimate decision lies not only with the hiring manager but also the CEO’s “personal commitment to diversity.” And this recession has diminished the progress made in recent decades in ensuring diversity among the top ranks, with numerous reports suggesting minorities and women have suffered the most by layoffs and cost cutting.

Washington Post Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli

The second report was by The Washington Post‘s Ombudsman Andrew Alexander this weekend discussing the Post’s internal diversity. Considering that news organizations have made giant leaps in addressing diversity, it is sobering to see that it remains far from enough. While 43% of the Post’s readership comes from minorities, its newsroom’s tally comes at 24%. Notably, Alexander does address the dominant place diversity has taken in our workplace culture. It used to be about altruism but today it is about the bottom line and remaining relevant in the business. Lack of diverse thought and perspective is pushing consumers away and without demand, there is no business model. As he puts it, “Back when newspapers generated huge profits, altruism often drove diversity efforts. Today, there’s an urgent business imperative. For the Post, struggling to regain profitability and retain subscribers, reaching expanding minority audiences represents opportunity–and perhaps survival.”

He also notes another important factor that seems to be on the rise at companies in recent years: Retaining and promoting minorities remains harder than the hiring. Alexander alludes to it, saying that including minority candidates in the pool is a mandate that all hiring managers know, but who eventually gets the job is a much grayer area. And because personnel development and leadership initiatives require budgetary considerations, diligent enforcement and repeated emphasis to diversity of thought in the work culture, they get easily forgotten.

For sure, this isn’t strictly a Post issue. Especially post-recession, increasing minority ranks in one’s company couldn’t be further down on the priority list. And when there is an easy excuse at hand (Haven’t you heard, we’re in the middle of a recession!) relegating diversity initiatives to the last page becomes a trend. Not addressing this, however, might become the deal breaker for your company’s sustainability in a time when “Corporate Sustainability” and “CSR” are making the rounds of boardrooms and the corner office, not only by concerned employees and consumers, but for some, shareholders as well.

What do you think? Has your employer scaled back its leadership initiatives? Your feedback and comments make this an engaged discussion, so keep writing in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or following us on Twitter @VaultCSR!

NAFE’s Top Companies for Executive Women: Hits & Misses for 2010

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The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) has come out with their 2010 winners’ list with some glaring exclusions that speak volumes for the year 2009 was in terms of layoffs and leaner payrolls. For example, medical insurer Aetna, which was in the Top 10 list last year is out. Hugely surprising because their submission for Vault’s Annual Corporate Diversity Survey, which we product jointly with nonprofit INROADS, last year spoke of a different reality in 2008. Take a look below, in 2008, 31% of their board comprised women executives and their retention rate for female employees remained almost constant between 2007 and 2008:

Another glaring absentee: Hewlett-Packard. While not in the top 10 last year, they made the Top 50 list in 2009. The numbers they submitted to our Annual Survey were bare, but they were recognized for making the choice of discussing their diversity initiatives and internships. While they didn’t choose to provide us with more specific data on leadership demographics, 30.5% of their employees were female in 2007 and 2008.* When this percentage doesn’t change, it can be telling for shifting numbers among senior leadership.

There are several other exclusions as well that should worry female executives who are in leadership roles and available for mentoring and promoting other women to management positions. These inclusions are also telling of a year where mergers and bankruptcies kept most women-friendly companies out of rankings and maintaining lean staff numbers. These include Ford Motor Company (Although, they reported a 43% increase in February sales today, surpassing GM for the first time in 50 years.), Sallie Mae (no surprises there with the turmoil they faced in 2009), Schering-Plough and pharmaceutical company Wyeth, which was acquired by Pfizer, that did make the list again.

Another company known for its initiatives and efforts in increasing their female leadership ranks in the past but missing from NAFE’s 2010 list was Texas Instruments. Take a look at their submission in our diversity survey. Addressing one of the questions regarding what they are doing to address attrition rates among women and female employees, they said, “[We are working on] strengthening [our] mentoring program for all employees, including minorities and women: TI participates in both internal and external mentoring programs. Formal, internal programs are offered by TI business groups and some of the diversity initiatives. In addition, TI’s Women’s Initiative has developed training offered on a regular basis for self-managed mentoring. We also offer professional skills development programs, including minority and women employees, where each year, TI invests in creating, facilitating and sponsoring a wide variety of development opportunities for employees.

The list isn’t all about the absentees though. There were many that debuted this year that deserve praise for their continued work in mentoring women executives. Some of these included American Electric Power, AT&T and Grant Thornton. However, there were a few that highlighted the diversity of the represented companies. Like public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, that has lately been making inroads into the hot sector of sustainability consulting; consulting firms Hewitt Associates (they received top accolades in our survey as well) and McKinsey & Company, who continue to remain quiet on the diversity front; and PepsiCo, no surprises there, with CEO Indra Nooyi (Read her views on the recession and sustainability) leading the team.

For NAFE’s complete list and survey methodology, visit their Top Companies page.

*Note: These numbers are before their acquisition of EDS last year.

–Posted by Aman Singh, In Good Company

Written by Linda Petock

March 3, 2010 at 11:45 am

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