The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments October 10 on affirmative action. Specifically, the court is looking at whether the University of Texas may favor racial minorities in its admissions process.
Interestingly, 57 major corporationssuch as Aetna, General Electric, Merck, Microsoft, and Wal-Marttook the time to file a friend-of-the-court brief to voice their collective opinion. The reason? Whatever decisions the court issues could have serious business implications.
Progressive companies already know the power of diversity. They live it every day in how they do business. They experience its benefits. The more diverse a company is, the more prosperous it tends to be. That has certainly been my experience on every level. Therefore, businesses would like to avoid a ruling that might stifle or curtail diversity throughout societys institutions and corporations.
I can understand the corporate concerns. I would hate to see any outcome that fails to promote diversity within our institutions and our companies. I understand the power of diversity conceptually and I have experienced it personally and professionally.
Many examples of diversitys power could be shared. I will pass along just one connected with the friend-of-the-court brief, highlighted by Paul M. Barrett with Greg Storh (Selling the Supremes on Diversity Bloomberg Businessweek 10/22/1210/28/12, pp. 3839):
Merck says having people of South Asian and Arab descent on the payroll has helped drive sales. The company had anticipated that Muslim women would be hesitant to use its Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the virus that causes cervical cancer. So, Merck told the court in the brief, it sought the assistance of its Muslim employees in obtaining halal certificationthe Islamic equivalent of the kosher stamp of approvalfor the vaccine. Having a diverse workforce helped us get this product to market faster and ensure that it would be well-received by customers around the world says Bruce Kuhlik, Mercks executive vice president and general counsel. (p. 38)
I always want colleges to evaluate prospective students, and businesses to evaluate job candidates, the same wayabsolutely fairly and accurately. That said, diversity is an undeniable, powerful dynamic. It accrues benefits to the employee, the company, the customer, and our society.
I believe these corporations make a good point. After all, they stand on their firsthand experience.
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