The Road Ahead
Conscientious efforts to level the playing field will no doubt help companies wean themselves from the “comfort factor” and cast a wider net for talent. And companies are increasingly realizing that it’s to their advantage to move further downstream and help academic institutions improve the educational pipeline (see “Going to the Source” at the end of this article). The most important lesson for companies, however, may be that success depends on doing two things well: making a business case for diversity and sticking with it. Coca-Cola, for example, didn’t see big changes in morale among African-American employees until the fifth year of its program, long after most companies tend to declare victory or defeat and move on. The long-standing presence of women in the finance pipeline does appear to be bearing fruit, but it has taken decades for them to ascend from the rank-and-file into positions of leadership.
As useful as those corporate efforts can be, successful women and minorities stress the importance of self-determination. Munoz recalls what happened at that Mexican resort the day after he was mistaken for a pool boy: while relaxing on the beach with his family, he bumped into the couple who had handed him the towels. He greeted them warmly, and the couple, certain they had never met Munoz before, happily chatted with him about work and played with his children. In the end, differences were erased rather than exacerbated. “Minorities are victims of perception on a regular basis,” Munoz says, but, “it’s how you react that will either motivate you to achieve or consume you and hold you back.”
Alix Nyberg Stuart is senior writer at CFO.
Going to the Source
One promising tactic for promoting diversity in finance is to partner with colleges and professional associations. “This is our future source of talent,” says Derica W. Rice, CFO of Eli Lilly, and “the earlier we can build relationships with them, the better.”
Coca-Cola, for example, plans to recruit from historically Black colleges like Morehouse and Spelman for a new multiyear summer internship it is launching. At Cardinal Health, CFO Jeff Henderson recently hosted the local National Black MBA Association chapter, with a staffing team and other executives and members of the finance team on hand to discuss career opportunities.
Not surprisingly, financial aid helps immensely. Lilly offers financial support to the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management, a St. Louis–based scholarship fund that helped Rice pay for his MBA 20 years ago. And Oscar Munoz, CFO of CSX Corp., started a scholarship fund with his wife that is helping nearly 70 Hispanics and African-Americans through middle school, high school, and college.
Companies going this route will find plenty of competition from accounting firms. Deloitte just created a special scholarship to sponsor the fifth year of college accounting programs for minority candidates, while KPMG is recruiting 50 college freshmen and sophomores from African-American and Hispanic backgrounds to participate in internships over two summers. “We’ve got to force our way back even earlier into the pipeline,” says Tonie Leatherberry, director and national diversity and inclusion leader at Deloitte Consulting. — A.N.S.