Diversity-Council Structures

January 1, 2011 12:00 am

DiversityInc shares with you some of the significant research we’ve done on diversity councils with 15 companies on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Today, we take a look at the most common and effective structures of diversity councils and who generally leads them. Later this month, we’ll examine how councils tie senior executive compensation directly to diversity goals and metrics; how frequently councils meet; and what the interaction is with the chief diversity officer. We’ll also look at some companies that have had successful external councils.

For an in-depth look at two of these councils, watch our diversity-council webinar, featuring Prudential Financial and Northrop Grumman.

Who Should Be a Member? Who Should Be the Chair?

All of the DiversityInc Top 50 have internal diversity councils, compared with just 72 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 in 2005. At half of the DiversityInc Top 50, the CEO is the chair of the group versus 32 percent in 2005. Most of the councils are made up of senior executives from all areas of the company (often the CEO’s executive council, direct reports to the CEO and perhaps one level down, depending on the size of the company). Usually, the chief diversity officer or head of diversity is a standing member of the diversity council. Increasingly, councils are creating one- to two-year rotational spots for employee-resource-group leads and other people from the “middle” of the organization on the councils.

Here’s a look at how some of the leading companies we interviewed structure their councils:

Sodexo: Texanna Reeves, vice president, corporate diversity, says Sodexo has two councils, a diversity leadership council and a cross-market diversity council. George Chavel, CEO and president, who was a featured speaker at DiversityInc’s Nov. 8–9, 2010, event on employee engagement and effective diversity management, chairs the leadership council and is executive sponsor of the cross-market council. The diversity leadership council has been in effect since 2005 and is the decision-making body around the policy and direction of the diversity-management effort. The council consists of Chavel, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand, the chief HR officer, the general counsel, the market president for healthcare services, the chief strategy officer, and the division president for senior services. Sodexo does not have rotational spots on its council.

AT&T: Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer Cindy Brinkley notes that Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson chairs the diversity council, which consists of his direct reports. Brinkley meets with the council at least quarterly and talks with them frequently. She also has a chief diversity officer forum, made up of representatives one to two levels down, at the vice-presidential level.

Marriott International: Jimmie Paschall, senior vice president, external affairs, and global diversity officer, says the hospitality company has had regional and inclusion councils since 1992. Chairman and CEO J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. established a board-level group called the Committee for Excellence. It was created in 2003 to set and regularly monitor the progress of the company’s diversity goals and initiatives. The council has an appointed chairperson to support each of the company’s three regions: East, West or South. The council chairs oversee the implementation of specific programs, which support diversity goals and initiatives, and are responsible and held accountable by senior leadership to define expectations and communicate the message organizationally, in meetings and quarterly reviews.

Merck & Co.: Deborah Dagit, vice president and chief diversity officer, tells us Chairman, President and CEO Richard T. Clark is actively involved in the council but does not chair it. Merck started with a diversity worldwide strategy team in 2001, which was more U.S. focused and organized by business units and was pretty autonomous. Clark, who became CEO in 2005, wanted a collaborative and geographical approach, including the company’s increasing global focus. Merck now has a global council made up of the executive sponsors (most are vice presidents) of its global employee-resource groups, known as global constituency groups (GCGs). Merck has GCGs for Women, Men, Generational, Hispanic, Black, Asia Pacific, Native Indigenous, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, Differently-Abled, and Interfaith.

Cox Communications: Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Mae Douglas tells us Cox has had diversity councils since 2002. The current high-level council is chaired by President Pat Esser. Members are a cross-section of corporate and field leaders, with diversity of function. They rotate members, who then become diversity ambassadors, and they meet three times a year.

Aetna: Chief Diversity Officer Raymond Arroyo says the Aetna Diversity Board has been in existence since 2007. Chairman and CEO Ronald Williams chairs the council and President Mark Bertolini is very involved. Both usually attend meetings and at least one is at every advisory-board meeting. They both review and approve the agenda for each meeting (held every six to eight weeks) and all action items. There are approximately 21 members of the council, and all are very senior, including senior vice presidents and vice presidents.

Prudential Financial: Chief Diversity Officer Emilio Egea tells us the diversity council at Prudential has been in existence for more than 10 years and consists of Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld and his direct reports. Prudential integrates diversity into all of its senior leadership initiatives.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida: The 15-member diversity leadership council was chaired by the now-retired Chairman, CEO and President Dr. Robert I. Lufrano until mid-2011; Marie Y. Philippe now serves as chief diversity officer. The council consists of the chief financial officer, the chief operating officer and all senior vice presidents of business units. The council has been in existence for almost three years and meets quarterly.

Automatic Data Processing: The council is chaired by Carlos A. Rodriguez, who succeeds President and CEO Gary C. Butler. Its members are his senior leadership team, including business-unit presidents, the senior vice president of sales, the chief financial officer, the chief information officer, and the corporate vice president of  HR.

Northrop Grumman: The company established its diversity council this year, after starting business unit councils in 2008–2009, according to Sylvester Mendoza, corporate director, diversity and inclusion. Chairman, CEO, and President Wes Bush co-chairs the council, along with a corporate vice president and president of a sector unit, who have rotating terms of one to two years. Sandra Evers-Manly, vice president, corporate responsibility, is a permanent member.