Systems Needed to Nurture Diversity

KALAMAZOO, Mich. Retailers need to have the right systems in place in order to nurture the kind of culture that supports a diverse workforce, according to panelists at the Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference here last month. We are putting more emphasis on diversity, because we believe that better systems are made by a more diverse group, said Della Wall, group vice president, human

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Retailers need to have the right systems in place in order to nurture the kind of culture that supports a diverse workforce, according to panelists at the Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference here last month.

“We are putting more emphasis on diversity, because we believe that better systems are made by a more diverse group,” said Della Wall, group vice president, human resources, Kroger Co., Cincinnati. “We're putting not only more emphasis on recruiting and hiring, but on ongoing development and retention, and that involves frank and honest discussions about career goals.”

The panel, presented by the Network of Executive Women, discussed a range of diversity issues.

Women comprise 19% of senior management positions in corporate America, according to Joy Nicholas, national account executive, RBS Lynk, who moderated the panel. She also cited a report by Catalyst, a group that promotes the advancement of women in the workforce, showing that over the last 10 years, the growth rate of female corporate officers has averaged 0.8%.

“Catalyst reports that it could be 40 years before women are equally represented in executive positions,” she said. “There are a lot of very talented, very well-educated women who are leaving the workforce.”

Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, senior vice president, global human resources, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., said companies “need to get creative in the way they retain people” to increase the number of women and minorities in their ranks.

Also, when promoting from within, companies should be disciplined in how they share information with workers.

“Try to make sure that all opportunities and assignments are communicated fairly throughout the company, and that promotions are not just a tap on the shoulder,” she said.

Janet Emerson, regional group vice president, Meijer Inc., advised young workers to get experience working in different areas.

“Allow yourself to get broad experience so that you have the flexibility to manage your career through different opportunities,” she said.

Wall of Kroger added that young workers also should not be afraid to share their ideas with management to improve the workplace.

“Don't assume that policies and practices cannot be changed,” she said.