NWA Businesses Seek Ways to Increase Workplace Diversity
By Kate Duby
The Razorback Reporter
Corporations such as Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Arvest Bank are hiring executives who are training in diversity education, creating resource groups for minority employees and releasing annual reports that assess workplace diversity.
At 14.9%, Arkansas joins Missouri, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the second-highest percentile for African-American labor force share, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Representatives from the three businesses took part in a panel that highlighted workplace diversity initiatives.
Ebony Wyatt, director of sales at General Mills in Rogers, moderated the September discussion.
Tiffany Smith, corporate human resources business partner at J.B. Hunt, said the company is one of the first in the transportation business to implement a formal diversity and inclusion team; it focuses on self-awareness and training. Employees participate in executive diversity and inclusion coaching, which starts at the corporate level and moves down, Smith said.
J.B. Hunt executives also are working to increase minority recruitment, Smith said.
“So, we’ve made intentional efforts to target, for example, historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and veteran groups where our college recruiting plans actually include those efforts every semester,” Smith said.
Diversity and inclusion are important to Smith because she is part of a diverse group, she said. She thinks minorities have been underrepresented in the places she has lived and worked.
“I want it to be kind of a consistent conversation that’s going on, where people show that interest and you seek out opportunities to say, ‘hey, I know we don’t look like each other or we don’t speak the same language, but I’m genuinely interested in who you are, what your background is, so that we can find out how to come together,’” Smith said.
Carmen Goncalves, senior director of merchandising strategy at Walmart, said company executives have begun actively engaging a more diverse base through community outreach and diversity education.
In 2017, 43% of Walmart associates worldwide were people of color, and 55% were women, according to the 2017 Walmart Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Report. Twenty-one percent of corporate-level officers were people of color, and 30% were women. Thirty-one percent of managers were people of color, and 43% were women.
Goncalves said her coworkers have been involved with area public schools by creating mentorship programs and open dialogue sessions.
“We make an intentional effort to invite everyone,” Goncalves said. “If we haven’t been, we have discussions.”
Goncalves thinks employers should be culturally competent and mindful of demographics-based workplace dynamics as industries change to become more diverse, she said.
“I think the feeling of exclusion is real for a lot of folks in underrepresented groups,” Goncalves said.
Panelist Latricia Hill-Chandler, Arvest Bank’s first-ever chief diversity officer, started her career in a traditionally male-dominated industry where she often felt excluded, she said.
“I found my voice because I was excluded,” Hill-Chandler said. “I was in a room with all white guys over the age of 40 at the time, and I was in my 20s, and I was overlooked on decisions.”
Hill-Chandler uses her role as chief diversity officer to help others have a voice and a place at the table, she said.
“Regardless of how educated you are, how much money you have or your family has, regardless of who you love, regardless of if you have a disability seen or unseen, regardless of anything – you should make sure and always feel like you’re included,” Hill-Chandler said.
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