The Xerox Corporation has a long history of promoting diversity in the workplace. Since its first CEO in the 1960s, the company has internally set its moral compass toward building diversity from within. For example in the 1970s, Xerox took affirmative action seriously and sought to establish equal hiring processes. They upheld affirmative action by hiring minority and women and created a more ethnically and gender diverse workplace. In the 1990s, Xerox added sexual orientation to their diversity ethics, respecting growing and changing views on diversity.
Xerox has built a diverse team of employees and believes that diversity is a valuable resource and the number one reason they became the industry leader in technology services and document management. In addition to being ethically correct, building diverse teams is profitable for businesses because it stimulates innovation and improves problem solving. These outcomes often naturally occur when bringing together people who hold different ideas and represent a variety of perspectives. These overwhelming benefits in social capital internally provide organizations the tools to succeed, and continue to do so at Xerox Corporation. In comparison to other Fortune 500 companies, Xerox stands out in that over 50% of their staff is comprised of women and minorities. This is a huge departure from the status quo of the white male majority typically seen in corporate America.
I. How does Xerox define “diversity”? How has it changed over the years?
Xerox Corporation has had a long tradition of welcoming and celebrating diversity inside the company. For example, during the company’s early years, its first chairman J. C. Wilson took preliminary steps toward diversifying their workforce. This was in reaction to the race riots of the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1970s, Xerox implemented its own internal affirmative action office to ensure their hiring process was inclusive and to build a diverse staff.
Xerox’s definition of diversity goes beyond just maintaining a good percentage of racial groups, women, and ethnicities amongst its staff. For instance, over the years, Xerox’s definition of diversity has changed to include sexual orientation, age, and religious affiliation as well. Considering these other parameters encompasses a broader pool of talent that is more representative of the diverse population in the United States.
II. The 7 Reasons. How Xerox values workplace diversity.
Xerox values diversity in the workplace because it ultimately helps them meet their goals, increases the efficiency of their business, and promotes innovation throughout their employees. 1) Xerox supports inclusion and diversity because employees can then “reach their fullest potential.” 2) Also, diverse teams help them “invest in innovation” which has had a positive effect on maintaining Xerox as an industry leader. Although the United States has been struggling with an economic downturn, Xerox continues to see rising profits. Xerox is number one in market share and they attribute this to their diverse and innovative team members. 3) Regarding innovation, the “entrepreneurial” spirit of their team practically invented their services business, which helped Xerox expand its business and profits: “no competitor can match Xerox’s services expertise.”
This is perhaps because the company has independent groups of diverse team members who are constantly problem solving and thinking of new ways to serve their customers. 4) Xerox works with what they call a “people development model.” The up and coming leaders in the company represent the “real world” in minority and female staff composition. This helps the company be representative, and stay connected with the pulse of the nation, whose minority groups are constantly growing. These strong leaders can share their varied and insightful voices in an inclusive work environment to continue making Xerox strong. 5) Xerox offers the “broadest portfolio of offerings” which has made them market leader in document management. Their chairwoman, Anne Mulcahy, attributes their success to “empowering a small but entrepreneurial team.” 6) Xerox believes that by respecting and honoring the differences that each person brings to the table has aided them in creating “productive people and an innovated company.” 7) Mulcahy, the chairwoman of Xerox has this to say about diversity: “I’m convinced diversity is the key to success, the most diverse companies…are the most successful over time.” As a market leader with a staff that is over 50% minority or female, Xerox has certainly proven that diversity is a valuable asset.
III. Does Xerox embody or defy the “leaking pipeline” phenomenon?
The “leaking pipe” phenomenon was coined by Professor Lynda Gratton to explain how women provide great benefits and skills sets to companies, but fail to rise to executive and senior roles in corporate America. Xerox defies the “leaking pipeline” phenomenon by hiring and maintaining a staff that is 50% female and minority. Further, they have been able to achieve diversity not only in entry level positions, but in management and other senior roles. For example, in 2007, Ursula Burns was elected the company’s first African-American female president and the first of any Fortune 500 company. In 2009, when Burns resigned, she handed over the leadership of Xerox to another female president, Anne Mulcahy. This was the first time in a Fortune 500 company where female-to-female leadership was maintained, once again defying the “leaking pipeline” phenomenon.
IV. Compare Xerox to other Fortune 500 companies.
It is no surprise that women and minorities have had a tough climb to executive or upper management positions in corporate America. According to Diversity Inc, a website dedicated to publishing the latest diversity statistics of Fortune 500 personnel, corporate America is almost 90% male and white. Diversity Inc. discusses how Franklin Raines was made the first black CEO of a major corporation, Fannie Mae, and served from 1999-2004. That is incredibly recent given the U.S. Civil Rights Amendment was passed in 1964, almost 40 years ago. This shows that black Americans have had a slow climb to senior and executive roles. This is mirrored in the small percentage of female CEO and board members in U.S. corporations as well. Diversity Incorporated reported in 2012 that only 1.2% of all Fortune 500s had Black or Latino CEOs (6 CEOs each), 4.2% had female leaders (21 CEOs), and only 8 Asian CEOs in the United States. This is highly disproportionate to the national demographics, and thus business leaders today are not and have never been representative of the country’s racial and sexual make-up.
Organizations can improve their numbers of women and minorities by promoting upward mobility of qualified individuals within their companies. For example, female-to-female, and minority-to-minority mentoring is a strategy to pass along valuable training and leadership, and to poise those team members for promotions into upper management or executive positions instead of losing them like in the “leaking pipe” phenomenon. A philosophical approach toward promoting diversity is creating work environments that celebrate differences and inclusion. Some tactics to achieve inclusion are: having a committed board, establishing mentors for career guidance, networking opportunities, and reducing stereotypes and/or stigmas from negatively affecting the work culture. Taking these steps will help ensure respect, inclusion and foster diverse perspectives that will inevitably make a business or organization stronger.