Race Bias #13 - "Minority Promotion Networks"

The excerpt below gives us another list of American corporations employing preference schemes. In this case, the schemes involve the curious practice of encouraging exclusive minority "networks" in which minorities are encouraged to "strategize" about promotions. - Not the company's success, but _promotions_.

You see, some organizations have several parallel corporate objectives. Some employees and managers are expected to get the goods out the door to customers. Other employees and managers - now officially - have the job of getting themselves promoted.

In these corporate cultures, non-preferred employees charged with getting the goods out the door are expected to ignore the blatant promotion seeking activity of the preferred employees, - pretend it doesn't exist - and press on with the company's economic business. Managers running this system have developed a wonderful set of code words, described below, to mollify non-preferred employees who might perceive unfairness in all this.

In any event, we get a nice list of short-sale candidates from this article.

Good luck to Xerox in its drive to show the monolithic Japanese copier companies that "diverse" management ranks are better.


The New Work Force: A New Push to Break the `Glass Ceiling'


But Senior Jobs For Minorities Remain Scarce


By Leon E. Wynter and Jolie Solomon

Staff Reporters of The Wall Street Journal


{Part of a Series}

For years, blacks, other minorities and women have complained about the "glass ceiling" -- invisible but real -- that acts as a subtle barrier to promotions into high-level executive jobs.

* * *

Some of Xerox's tactics were considered radical just a few years ago. Among them: encouraging minority caucus groups and national "networks" providing support and advice to black -- and, later, female, Asian and Hispanic -- employees. "Xerox gave them the freedom to help advance themselves," says Glegg Watson, a black Xerox executive and co-author of a book on blacks in corporate America.

Today, many other companies are trying to learn from Xerox. Johnson & Johnson and Polaroid Corp. have contacted Xerox recently to find out about its policies.

Amoco Corp., seeking the best way to establish some form of minority employee groups, looked to Xerox for guidance. "Their reputation is that they do a good job," says Wayne Anderson, vice president for human resources.

Xerox officials say they didn't set out to promote minorities with the changing labor market in mind, yet they see definite advantages in being out front in promoting minorities. "We believe we will have an edge on people who are trying to catch up to the work force of the '90s," says Mr. Rand, the Xerox marketing chief. "The manager of the future is one who can relate to all parts of the population, with the ability to manage minorities, females, etc. and be managed by them."

* * *

Xerox's push started in the 1970s, when managers of the company's affirmative action program examined the careers of 10 top executives to find "the key job without which they would not have made it to where they were," says Theodore Payne, the company's affirmative action manager. Xerox found that the common "pivotal" job was that of first-level sales manager. But an internal survey showed that all of the company's 500 first-level sales managers were white. The affirmative-action managers had their work cut out.

"We would go to a regional vice president and ask, `How many {blacks} can you get to be a sales manager?'" Mr. Payne recalls. The carrot was that Xerox based 20% of a manager's performance review on success with human-resources management, including affirmative action. The stick was unequivocal messages from two consecutive chairmen, C. Peter McColough and David T. Kearns, that this program was going to succeed -- or else.

The program met with some resistance from white managers. "There were some . . . who just could not adjust," Mr. Payne recalls. "Some left, others just got crunched up." No one got fired, he says "but some had to be put out of harm's way. If the manager had trouble with blacks," he says, they usually had other problems dealing with people.

In changing its culture, Xerox never tried to dismantle its informal white, male old-boy network. Instead, the company allowed a black network to flourish. Groups sprang up in every major regional headquarters city.

At first, Xerox did nothing to sanction the groups. But when the first confrontations with management arose, Xerox's Mr. Kearns, then head of U.S. marketing, supported the caucus-group concept. Says Mr. Rand, now in the top marketing post: "We knew we had to establish our own support network, our own communications channels, because we were not part of the old-boy network. We called it `revolution by telephone.'"

The caucus groups met on their own time to develop advancement strategies. Mr. Rand says his group met after work in one another's homes and videotaped their sales presentations for group critiques. "If a sales rep wasn't performing well, another black sales rep might go into that person's territory and find them prospects," Mr. Rand says of the early days. One change the caucus sought and won was getting Xerox to post stepping-stone job openings, a system many large companies still resist.

But Howard Holley, a black district manager in San Diego, worries that the groups' effectiveness may be waning because newer employees, finding a system in place, are complacent. "The people coming into the organization now don't feel as threatened," Mr. Holley says.

As the groups succeeded, some whites in the company grew concerned. "There were numbers of white male employees who were worried when they saw how aggressively we were moving," says Richard Healy, who ran Xerox's Eastern U.S. region for most of this decade. "If I chose to place a ready black candidate or female, sometimes the white employees would come up and say, `What about me?'" recalls Mr. Healy, who is white.

Mr. Healy, now a top marketing strategist for Xerox, says a company policy of candor about its affirmative-action goals was a major deterrent to backlash from suspicious white males. "It was a matter of convincing people that they too would have their chance. It was a matter of speaking about it very openly."

To be sure, Xerox's success hasn't been universal or complete. Mr. Watson, who studied hundreds of black executives for his book on blacks in corporations, says minorities haven't had as much success breaking barriers in Xerox's financial-services business or in the important international arena. "When blacks become as successful {in those areas}, then Xerox as a whole will be by far the ultimate corporate model," Mr. Watson says.

Even within sales, "I still think we have too high a rate of turnover of minorities," Mr. Holley says. He adds that Xerox can only sustain its goals by staying vigilant in training new workers.

Mr. Rand believes Xerox will be one of the first companies prepared to test the value of American cultural diversity against Japanese homogeneity in the global marketplace. If Xerox, whose dominance in copying machines has been targeted by Japanese rivals, can prevail, "we'd like to be able to stand up and say that we've done that as a multicultural company," Mr. Rand says. "I think that will serve as a beacon for the rest of American industry."

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