Workplace Diversity Watch

Most Admired Companies: Minority Professional Choice Survey Offers Insight into Workplace Diversity Planning

By Tyrone D. Taborn

Last year we published one of the most comprehensive surveys in our publishing history. The survey captured how minority professionals felt about workplace diversity programs. We had seen a lot of other “best workplace diversity employers” lists published elsewhere, but it seemed that these other lists focused largely on surface workplace diversity factors: the number of minorities hired, corporate contributions to social and community efforts to advance minorities, minority board member representation, and supplier diversity efforts.

While that information certainly revealed a great deal about corporate America’s progress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it did not quite tell us which companies were dealing with issues arising out of an increasingly diverse workplace: workplace conflict, lack of professional recognition amongst women and people of color, minority leadership development, and minority retention.

Today, changing demographics make achieving workplace diversity relatively easy. However, nurturing productivity, innovation, and harmony in that workplace is another matter. We wanted another look at the work experiences, values, and dreams of minority employees themselves, so we asked them a few questions: Are they pleased with their employers’ workplace diversity programs? How have these programs impacted the minority professional in the workplace? What are their views on workplace diversity efforts?

When we conducted this survey last year, we had only seen two other surveys that answered these questions. One was conducted by this organization more than 10 years ago, and the second was conducted several years ago in partnership with the Information Technology Association of America. Since our survey of last year, we have not seen another one that is as comprehensive.

With this year’s survey, we again wanted to add something that was missing from the discussion¯a gut check on the key issues for minority professionals themselves. We believe that the results will either give workplace diversity champions new insight about the thinking of minority professionals, or it will affirm and document what they already know. Either way, this investigation will be invaluable in workplace diversity planning.


Last year’s survey so impressed Raytheon’s CEO that he emailed it to key staff members. We tried to do even better this year. Texas Instruments’ vice president called this year’s survey very comprehensive. The new study’s methodology replicated last year’s. To conduct such a comprehensive study, an online survey consisting of 64 questions was e-mailed to Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Black, and other minority professionals in the fields of science, engineering, and information technology. A few surveys were also e-mailed to a sample group of non-technical professionals. Ninety percent of the non-technical group’s respondents identified themselves as members of an under-represented ethnic group.

Subjects were given 30 days to complete the survey, after which time, online access was deactivated. Additionally, polling software and human review deleted duplicate submissions by checking IP and e-mail addresses. As an incentive, respondents were offered a subscription to a Career Communications Group publication of their choosing and were entered to win a vacation in Jamaica.

Within two weeks of sending the survey, we received 323 submissions from minority respondents. To ensure privacy and anonymity, respondents were provided with an e-mail address to use for their gift fulfillment.

All of the results come directly from the minority professional employees. Absolutely no employer data or participation was knowingly used in the preparation of the survey results.

Respondent Demographics

The professionals who took part in this year’s survey had profiles nearly identical to last year’s participants. They came from industry. In fact, 108 companies were represented.

Again, women responded in large numbers. Females, at 64.7 percent, again outnumbered the male respondents, at 35.3 percent.

This year saw an increase in younger professionals and baby boomers. Ninety-seven percent of respondents were over 21 years of age, compared to 90 percent last year. Some 54.8 percent fell in the 31–50 year age bracket, a notable decline from 64 percent last year. However, the percentage of those over 50 years of age increased from 12 percent to 15.6 percent.

Married respondents increased from 48 percent to 50.5 percent, with 73.4 percent of them having 1–3 children, a huge increase over last year’s 56.3 percent with children. The number of divorced respondents, at 10.9 percent, slightly increased from last year’s 9.4 percent. Separations dropped from 1.6 percent to .7 percent. Widowed respondents remained at 0.9 percent.


More professionals working in technical, science, engineering, or information technology fields participated in the 2006 survey¯70.8 percent this year compared with 65 percent in 2005. Both last year and this year, 47 percent expressed a wish for retention efforts to be maintained and enhanced.

Information technologists, representing 60 percent of respondents, stay with their employers the longest. Non-technical employees stay the second longest, and only 47.2 percent of engineers had been with their employers for more than five years.

Respondents with more than 10 years of experience increased from 44 percent to 46.9 percent this year, and 40.2 percent have held two or three jobs in their respective fields.


The respondents were again solidly middle class, with 52.9 percent earning salaries of $50--99,000, a slight increase over the 52 percent of respondents who were earning this much last year. Engineers fared better than other professionals, with 60.4 percent falling in this income range, 29.2 percent earning $50--74,999, and 31 percent in the $75--99,999 income range; there was a slight drop from last year, when 62.2 percent earned $50--74,999 and 31.1 percent earned $50-99,999.

The real surprise was in the number of non-technical professionals entering the $100--149,000 income bracket. Last year, almost 16 percent of responding engineers and 4 percent of the non-technical respondents were in that salary range. This year, 13 percent of the non-technical respondents and 18.8 percent of the engineers earned $100--149,000.


The survey respondents value and invest in education. Last year, 41 percent had pursued additional certification and education beyond undergraduate studies. This year, the survey only captured degreed education, and the numbers were still impressive.

Some 31.3 percent of all respondents have a master’s degree, with 4.5 percent holding a doctorate. Another 46.8 percent plan to pursue an advanced degree. Among the engineers, 40.3 percent have a master’s degree, and 4.9 percent have a doctorate.

The percent of respondents who had attended a Hispanic Serving Institution decreased from 2.1 to 0 percent; however, 7.7 percent of the Hispanic engineers in this survey had attended a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

The HBCU engineering colleges continue to be critical in pipeline development. Engineers attending HBCUs increased to 39.9 percent, whereas last year, only 39.6 percent of responding engineers attended an HBCU. Some 26.2 percent of non-technical employees attended an HBCU in 2005, but this year, only 15 percent had attended an HBCU.

Summary: The responses increased from the two ends of the spectrum: younger workers and baby boomers. Respondents were middle class, and most had children in the household. They valued continuing education.

More Companies Embrace Workplace Diversity

Companies are moving beyond simply acquiring a diverse work force and calling it quits: Our survey shows that many employers are successfully managing, embracing, and cultivating a diverse work environment. Minority employees give their employers improved marks on managing workplace diversity and on being fair. Some 67.1 percent rated their companies' workplace diversity programs as good to excellent, whereas only 60 percent of respondents gave their companies this score last year. Also, 57 percent of the respondents feel that minority engineers and scientists are adequately represented at their companies.

In promotions, 69 percent of respondents said that their companies were fair to minorities, and 72 percent agreed that their employers were fair in setting salaries.. When it came to assignment of leadership positions, only 60 percent of all the respondents felt the company was fair. This may reflect the make-up of the work force. Although women and people of color make up 30 percent of the middle managers and about 63 percent of the work force, they hold only 5 percent of the top managerial positions. White men held nearly 95 percent of those jobs in 2000. These results suggest that organizations must increase their efforts in leadership development for women and people of color.

Last year, 75 percent of responding minority engineers felt that employers were fair in promotions, 79 percent said their employers were fair when it came to salary, and 82 percent said their employers were fair in assigning leadership roles. The non-technical group's results for these same questions were 54, 59, and 56 percent, respectively. This year, the numbers have declined. Only 66 percent of respondents felt their employers were fair in promotions, 72 percent said their employers were fair about salary, and 60 percent said their employers were fair when it came to leadership assignments.

Still, overall, survey results indicate that minority professionals feel their employers’ workplace diversity efforts are working. That should be welcome news for companies who are moving beyond the melting pot concept, and are instead valuing employees for the diverse strengths and viewpoints they bring to the organization.

A Sense of Belonging

Many employees said their employers had programs in place that created a sense of belonging. The majority of respondents felt that their employers valued their input on workplace diversity-related issues.

Formal programs for minority and women recruitment, employee networks, or affinity groups were in place at 66.8 percent of the respondents' companies. Some 85.3 percent of respondents work for organizations with a clearly stated workplace diversity policy, and 68.7 percent reported cultural awareness training at their companies. Some 88.5 percent of employees said their employers had a confidential process for employees to report gender or racial discrimination concerns. Moreover, 81.5 percent said their companies sought their input in diversity recruitment, and 70 percent said their ideas on workplace diversity were solicited.

The survey results indicate that many of the nation’s employers are moving in the right direction on workplace diversity issues. Yet respondents felt that there was still much to be done. For example, nearly 57 percent felt that minorities were not adequately represented in the engineering or scientific positions at their workplaces. Only 73.9 percent of the engineers indicated that a formal mentoring program existed at their companies. And 26 percent of the engineers said that their organizations did not have a formal recruitment program to reach women and minorities.

Summary: Highly skilled workers of both genders value their companies’ workplace diversity efforts and participate in those efforts in higher numbers than non-technical employees. Non-technical minority women cite employer inequity more frequently than other groups.

Linking Professional Development and Minority Retention

Recruiting women and minorities, only to see them walk out of the door within a few years is a loss of training investments and a loss of opportunity. Retaining promising employees is just as important as recruiting them.

The survey respondents clearly state that their employers are "getting it" when it comes to retention and professional development. Last year, only 33.3 percent reported mentoring programs; this year, 40 percent of respondents said that these types of programs were in place at their companies. Also, 65 percent said their employers supported them in continuing education programs, and 82.2 percent said they would recommend a position in their current field to youth.

Respondents reported several factors that influenced them when they chose their places of employment, and these factors may help companies develop new or more effective retention strategies. Professional development was a leading factor in job consideration. The ethics of the company was the second most important factor. Learning opportunities and security were third and fourth. Job security also made it onto this year’s list. If women and minorities are made to feel that they have a fair opportunity in leadership positions, they may be more likely to stay.

Meeting the Global Challenge

Other countries are increasingly challenging the United States' standing as the world's technological leader. Together, India and China graduate nearly ten times more engineers than the 72,000 who graduate from U.S. schools. Over the last year, more U.S. leaders have warned that if our country does not increase our science, engineering, and technology work force, the United States risks becoming a second-class nation. But there is much we can learn about designing programs to increase minority participation in science from this year’s survey.

Minority engineers said that passion, income, and growing opportunities were the top three factors that led them into engineering. Minority engineers are very optimistic about the opportunities for engineers. Some 91 percent of the engineering respondents think that career opportunities will increase or remain stable, and 87.2 percent of the engineers said they would recommend an engineering career to children.

Timing played a critical role in the respondents’ decision to enter the field. Almost half of them---46.6 percent---decided on engineering between the ages of 12 and 18. Nearly two-thirds, or 73.6 percent, made the decision between age 12 and 21.

The decision-making process occurred much later for those not pursuing engineering. A surprising 52.4 percent of non-technical professionals made their career choice after they turned 22.

Pre-college and pre-engineering programs and events also factored into the engineers' career choice. Some 56.1 percent of the engineering respondents participated in these programs. In contrast, 74.2 percent of non-technical professionals did not participate in pre-college or pre-engineering programs or events.

Based on these numbers, it seems clear that increasing the number of minorities entering engineering requires an ongoing, comprehensive campaign. Such a campaign should create passion about the field by exposing young people to the fun side of engineering through field trips, technical conferences, pre-college programs, technology events, and interaction with professional engineers.

Family members also played a role in helping survey respondents select engineering. About 25 percent cited a family member as a key influencer, 21.4 percent credited a role model in the field, and 20.5 percent cited an advisor.

Role models---even if they were not engineers---played as great of a role as engineering role models in motivating students. Reaching family members and advisors with career information is critical, especially for under-represented minority groups, as there are fewer minority engineers in the community.

Lack of Formal and Informal Mentoring

Formal and informal mentoring opportunities are less available to women and people of color in the workplace. Some 92 percent attended professional development conferences like Black Engineer of the Year and Women of Color in Technology to help fill that void. At those conferences, 70 percent view the networking sessions as being very important.

Key Factors

The 2006 survey again reveals the similarities in career issues that all professionals share. What is unique among minorities and women is their perception of career limitation.

Employers should consider the work force conflicts that can be caused when policies, promotions, and decisions appear to be unfairly assigned. These conflicts may increase as people of color near the upper levels of the company and find barriers to advancement.

Shifting demographics favoring women and minorities will allow most companies to achieve some level of workplace diversity. Including them at all levels of the company is another issue.

If employers want their fair share of top employees, this survey underscores the importance of being viewed as an organization that fosters growth, opportunity, and professional development.

Last year we wrote, “corporate diversity programs are now the norm in many workplaces. Therefore, employers who do not have these programs or fail to execute them well are at a disadvantage. Because they are common, though, it is important that the programs not become static, and that employers continuously seek innovative ways to refresh the programs and reiterate the value proposition.”

This statement is just as relevant today as it was a year ago.

Most Admired Companies Rank

Lockheed Martin Corporation 2
Microsoft Corporation 3
Cisco Systems Inc. 4
Intel Corporation 5
Dell Inc. 6
NASA Headquarters 7
Johnson & Johnson 8
Booz Allen Hamilton 9
General Electric Company 9
Raytheon Company 10
The Walt Disney Company 11
Hewlett-Packard Company 12
Texas Instruments Inc. 13
AT&T 14
The Boeing Company 14
The Coca-Cola Company 14
Northrop Grumman Corporation 15
Fannie Mae 16
DaimlerChrysler Corporation 17
Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems 18
American Express Company 19
Motorola Inc. 19
Verizon Communications Inc. 19
Bank of America Corporation 20
Sun Microsystems Inc. 21
FedEx Corporation 21
General Motors Corporation 21
EDS Corporation 21
Citigroup Inc. 22
Pfizer Inc. 23
Abbott Laboratories 24
Computer Sciences Corporation 24
Mercedes Benz 24
Exxon Mobil Corporation 25
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 25
Time Warner Inc. 25
The Home Depot Inc. 26
General Dynamics Corporation 27
The Procter & Gamble Company 27
PepsiCo Inc. 28
Comcast Corporation 29
Target Corporation 29
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 29
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company 30
Merck & Company Inc. 30
J.P. Morgan Chase & Company 31
Air Force Research Laboratories 32
Ford Motor Company 32
Honeywell International Inc. 32
J.C. Penney Company Inc. 32
SBC Communications Inc. 32
Georgia-Pacific Corporation 33
Wachovia Corporation 33
Best Buy Company Inc. 34
Costco Wholesale Corporation 34
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. 34
United Parcel Service Inc. 34
Aerotek Inc. 35
Army Research Laboratory 35
BellSouth Corporation 35
Caterpillar Inc. 35
Duke Energy 35
Freescale Semiconductor Inc. 35
Google 35
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation 35
The MITRE Corporation 35

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