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April 24, 2003
Ford and Fannie Mae Top List of 50 Best Companies for Diversity
    by William Baue

DiversityInc's new corporate survey strives to identify the business value of diversity.

Last week, DiversityInc announced its third annual list of "Top 50 Companies for Diversity." The list resulted from corporate responses to a 50-question survey, review by a panel of diversity experts, and input from DiversityInc readers. The ranking took into consideration many different aspects of diversity, including race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, among others. It also assessed many different indicators of diversity, from board diversity to representation of diversity on corporate websites.

The top ten companies on the list included Ford (ticker: F), Fannie Mae (FNM), American Express (AXP), Verizon (VZ), IBM (IBM), SAFECO (SAFC), Deloitte & Touche, Eastman Kodak (EK), Bank of America (BAC), Xerox (XRX).

DiversityInc, a magazine and website publisher, claims to be the premier source of original, managerial-level information on the business benefits of diversity. To create a more rigorous evaluation, DiversityInc added 13 questions to last year's 37-item questionnaire.

"We added more in-depth questions about representation, breaking down employees, management, boards of directors and highest-paid employees by specific racial/ethnic groups," said Barbara Frankel, executive editor of DiversityInc. "Some questions are so fundamental to the business value of diversity that they had to receive the highest point values."

"For instance, our reporters have found that a corporation's diversity commitment is worthless without strong support of the CEO and top management," Ms. Frankel added. "As a result, questions demonstrating that support were among the most highly valued."

DiversityInc also generated separate lists of the Top 10 Companies for Recruitment and Retention and for Supplier Diversity, because these are areas where detailed numerical comparisons can be made.

"In recruitment and retention, for example, one can measure the percentages of people, broken down by race and ethnicity, who are hired, who are promoted, who are among the top paid, and those who leave the company," Ms. Frankel said. "It's also critical to look at whether a company offers specific, proven strategies that improve retention, such as domestic-partner benefits, mentoring and work-life programs."

"In supplier diversity, there is a quantifiable benchmark in both the dollar amounts spent and the percentage of the total procurement budget," she continued.

The top three companies for recruitment and retention included Deloitte & Touche, Fannie Mae, and Aetna (AET). The top company for supplier diversity was SBC (SBC), while Ford and Altria (MO), which bought out Philip Morris earlier this year, tied for second place.

DiversityInc sent questionnaires to all Fortune 500 companies as well as others known to champion diversity. Responses came from more than 100 corporations. The survey accounted for 70 percent of the final score.

A panel of 10 diversity experts, including Kim Mills of the Human Rights Campaign, Wanla Cheng of the Asia Link Consulting Group, and R. Fenimore Fisher of the Wall Street Project for Rainbow/PUSH, assessed the companies as well. Their judgment factored for 20 percent of the score. And the remaining 10 percent of the final score took into account the opinion of DiversityInc readers, who each got one vote.

Although the ranking took into account many different aspects of diversity, it could not encompass all the possible angles. For example, DiversityInc. could not track diversity by religion, as this is not a characterization that is reflected in human resource records. The survey did not evaluate the relationship between diversity and shareowner value.

"We did not track stock performance for the reason that it is virtually impossible to establish a causal link between movement in share prices and diversity, what with all the other possible mitigating factors," Ms. Frankel told "I don't know how we could make that connection, as we only tracked quantifiable issues in order to maintain the highest credibility."

In its ongoing effort to make its analysis as rigorous as possible, DiversityInc will also consider examining which companies are facing shareowner resolutions regarding diversity in next year's survey. This year, for example, shareowner resolutions were filed on issues such as board diversity and sexual orientation non-discrimination, though not at any of the companies listed on the Top 50 for Diversity.


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