Diversity on the Rise
Ann Heatherington   
January 2012

diversity-on-the-rise

Every week, Hammer Haley presents the Candidate Elite for key roles in senior-to-middle management at Fortune 1000 employers. These candidates have diverse backgrounds representing a mix of ethnicity, race, and gender.

And yet, while corporate diversity appears to be a growing priority, it's not often that we are specifically directed to make diverse candidates the primary focus of the search effort. That made us curious: to what degree do corporations value and prioritize diversity for enterprise-level corporate strategy positions, a functional area where Hammer Haley excels.

To get some insight, we partnered with Illinois Business Consulting (IBC), the largest student led, fee-based consultancy in the nation, to design a short survey focusing on diversity in senior management roles most responsible for defining corporate strategy and driving growth.

Our IBC team was comprised of graduate students Jenny Liu and Brittany Powell, and undergraduates Michelle Jang (Senior Manager), Fei Ye (Project Manager), Kelis King, Jim Platania, Jane Pyo, and Duncan Shin.

The Diversity and Corporate Growth Survey

Throughout the month of November 2011, the IBC students conducted the survey electronically and through phone interviews with Chief Diversity Officers and HR Executives from Fortune 1000 type employers. From the responses, the IBC team drew out general themes about the direction of diversity hiring from the employers' perspective, including:

DIVERSITY AND INNOVATION: The majority of companies who actively seek out diversity candidates believe that diversity leads to innovation. This answer widely trumped the other potential responses of increased employee morale/motivation, market opportunities and business opportunities.

DIVERSITY AND CORPORATE GROWTH: Companies that have succeeded in achieving diversity on teams most responsible for setting growth strategy believe there is an identifiable correlation between diverse perspectives and creative ideas.

DIVERSITY BY SECTOR: Aside from the Financial Services sector, other industry sectors conclusively responded that diversity candidates are in short supply and difficult to secure for roles in their particular industry sector.

One key finding didn't come from the survey, or at least not from the questions. We couldn't help but notice that our IBC case team was representative of incredible diversity. As Andrew Greta, Associate Director of IBC explained, "We have anywhere between 20 to 30 percent international students, depending on the program, and in some programs only 38% of the student population is considered Caucasian. So, any team that you assemble within the campus environment is bound to be diverse."

Arguably, universities are typically more balanced between people of color, men and women, and nationalities than other environments. It follows, then, that the next generation of leaders – currently pursuing degrees, or early in their careers -- naturally accept and expect diversity as the norm. As Mr. Greta noted, "What's more interesting to the students is their nationality and their visa status."

As the talent pool grows even richer and more diverse, companies continue to raise the bar for organizational diversity, particularly at the management level. Of the 2011 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Recruitment and Retention, women make up 47 percent of managers, and the top management is 19 percent Black, Latino, Asian and American Indian. We're left wondering how the corporate landscape will evolve as these two factors – the growing organizational prioritization of diversity and the increasingly intrinsic diversity of the talent pool – converge? Will more diversity reduce or reinforce the emphasis on diversity in the future? And what impact will the explosion of diverse perspectives have on corporate growth?

Tell us what you think, and stay tuned! We'll be investigating these questions and more through blogs, polls, interviews and social media as part of our ongoing exploration of Diversity on the Rise.

For more details on the survey, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

To learn more about Illinois Business Consulting, visit http://www.ibc.illinois.edu.