Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.
Good response Luke. I would like to reiterate and reinforce one of your points and add two others. First, as you mentioned, it’s important to establish an actual relationship with the institution. This means significantly more than just contacting the person in charge of scheduling corporate visits during career fairs. Schools that serve the underrepresented populations you seek are also deserving of the attention often lavished on larger so-called prestige institutions.
Offering corporate executives and other professional employees as visiting lecturers, providing real internships (vs. paper pushing ones), engaging in community outreach with the institution (e.g. supporting a program like Rutgers Future Scholars) is the type of relationship that will pay off with skilled and motivated employees from underrepresented groups who graduate from that institution. Second, an untapped resource is often a company’s employees – particularly if they are members of the target group – who are graduates of the institution being targeted in the recruitment process.
I once worked for a large firm in North Carolina that didn’t realize that many of its Black employees had graduated from HBCU’s in Virginia, North and South Carolina. As a result they went outside of the company, and the region, to recruit Black professionals. It wasn’t until they were made aware of their employee resource that they began to utilize it. Finally, companies need to realize that a sought after graduate (minority or otherwise) is a commodity in that they are able to demand a salary commensurate with their value in the corporate marketplace. I know of minority candidates with superior academic records in a particular specialty, for instance, who were inundated with offers from a number of companies at salaries significantly high than others might be offered simply because the company “needed” an Hispanic or Black or woman.
I not saying it’s the right approach or good business, but it is part of the minority recruiting environment in some areas.
I completely agree with you.
Let me add to my original answer. It is also important to be a part of the community. I was recently at Ameren to conduce a benchmarking debrief. Ameren is a publicly traded utility in Missouri and Illinois. I like to do my homework on the people who are going to be in the meeting and I was intrigued to read about a guy named Steve Parks who was completely involved in the Latino community, a member of a few organizations. My first instructor in flight school was named Steve Parks—a white guy—so I was looking forward to meeting him, since odds were he wasn’t Latino.
Sure enough, Ameren’s Steve Parks is not Latino; he is an African-American guy who got started in one Latino organization, developed relationships, was invited to join a second organization and became a regular at many, many Latino community events. When Ameren has a recruiting event, he told me that entire Latino families show up in support. By the way, Steve is not unusual at Ameren; I’ve rarely seen such great community involvement, and it starts with their CEO, Thomas Voss—a progressive man with a big heart.
Any employee of a company with employee-resource groups can start there. Go to a few meetings (in a row) and you will find that you’ve made some friends. Ask them how to be involved in the community; there are many service organizations in every community. Contacts from the ERGs will help you not be alone when you go to meetings. You will find the hospitality to be unlike anything I find in organizations that are predominately white. As one reader suggested, take a language course. It helps if you have talent in that area. I am unfortunately terrible at picking up new languages. But I’m good at understanding culture. I’ve found if your heart is in it, people will help you with the rest.
Personally, I am an (Anglo) member of PRIMER, a leading pan-Latino organization for professionals and executives. I was elected Member of the Year in 2006—pretty cool for a Latino organization to elect an Anglo for that honor, but I don’t see that as unusual. I was also given an herMano award from MANA, a leading Latina organization. (I later joined as a life member.) I am a member of NSHMBA as well. These relationships have enabled me to build a strong network of friends and colleagues. One thing you need to keep in mind is that people like Raymond Arroyo, founding president of PRIMER; Alma Morales Riojas, CEO of MANA; and Carlos Orta, CEO of HACR, are friendly and outgoing—but very, very serious about social justice, equity and progress. Don’t dabble; be in it for the long haul.
You’ll find that business connections are not difficult to make and provide a way to serve the community while having quite a rewarding time. I’ve learned a great deal about Latino culture from the meetings I attend, and the credibility I receive from always having a friend one or two degrees of separation from most every Latino executive I meet helps me establish trust quickly. Finally, part of the joy in my life is having my professional friends cross over into becoming personal friends.