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How Diverse Are American Companies?

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

Many organizations tout their workplace as diverse and point to their efforts in hiring and promoting people from different backgrounds. But do these cases reflect reality in the contemporary workplace?
Some college students are working to answer this question in a class called Managing Diverse Workforce, taught by Santa Clara University Assistant Professor Katerina Bezrukova. The 14 students are examining some of the country’s most well known companies such as Apple, Google, and Target from top to bottom by looking at their diversity initiatives and programs, the demographics of the employees, past and current discrimination lawsuits, as well as working conditions and employment benefits. After assessing the data of 10 companies, the students must choose one company and then develop a diversity program.
“Teaching anyone about diversity is a challenge, especially when you’re dealing with so many cultures, personal experiences, and perceptions,” said Bezrukova. “Many companies and campuses have diversity training programs, but the key is working through the stereotypes, learning the emotions, and avoiding any negativity that might come from an exercise.”
Bezrukova cited examples of how people can become defensive and emotional when issues such as gender, race, and sexuality are triggered.
“Even diversity programs that are beneficial and celebrate differences ended with aggravation, sexual harassment, and discrimination,” she said. “This happens because programs are not executed well or not designed properly.”
Having studied diversity for 12 years, Bezrukova developed this class and project to allow students to see for themselves the gaps and discrepancies that exist in the U.S. and then to apply what the students learned by making recommendations to the companies.
“The goal is to show inconsistencies at the top management level and the disconnect between who’s receiving the most employment and health benefits and those who need it the most,” said Bezrukova.
Despite what companies say and advertise about their companies, Bezrukova says discrepancies exist on levels that many might not consider.
“I don’t want my students to be a passive witness to this. I want them to be proactive and come up with a solution to fix any shortfalls they find in American companies.”
The students will present their findings and solutions in December.
Bezrukova and her students are available for media interviews.
Katerina Bezrukova teaches courses in industrial and organizational psychology, managing diverse workforce, and negotiations.
Media Contact:
Connie Kim Coutain | | 408-554-5126 O | 408-829-4836 C

Tags: diversity, Katerina Bezrukova, psychology, workplace

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