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'DiversityInc' Ratings on U.S. Corporate Diversity

ED GORDON, host:

DiversityInc. magazine recently put out its annual list of top 50 companies for diversity. Luke Visconti is a partner and co-founder of DiversityInc. Media. He explains what some may see as contradictions on the list.

There are companies like--and I understand they're not in your top 50 but on your honorable mention list--like Sodexho. How do they make honorable mention yet find themselves embroiled in what is, by some consideration, one of the largest discrimination suits ever settled in the country?

Mr. LUKE VISCONTI (Co-founder, DiversityInc. Media): What happened with Sodexho happened in the year 2000 and companies change very rapidly when they're kicked like that. And--well, some companies do. This is a big company with good management. They saw the errors in their ways and they took proactive measures after the courts had started--you know, when they started the process, to make themselves a better company. And if you look at their numbers--and that's what we look at. We look at numbers and we analyze CEO commitment, supplier diversity, corporate communications and human capital--they're a superior company. Now they're not superior enough to be in the top 50 but I can tell you that they are working extremely hard from the top down to get it right. It's a very competitive and progressive company.

Coca-Cola's an interesting example. Going from a place where I wouldn't say it was a great company many years ago for diversity, it is now and the CEO last year asked for another year of court supervision from the original settlement. People and companies evolve. It's OK to evolve because you're kicked onto the list and then if that changes your corporate culture.

GORDON: Do you find it surprising that a company could--for instance, I think of Nielsen Media--be on your list, be on the plus side of diversity in terms of employment, but be embroiled externally with issues of whether they're servicing African-Americans and other minorities correctly?

Mr. VISCONTI: Yes and no. I think it's very difficult--and I'll be blunt here--for white men to truly understand this subject. It takes a real internal passage. People in this country who are white grow up with the concept that there really is no culture that they have. Everybody else may have a culture--African-Americans may have a culture, Latinos--but they don't have a culture. And that's dead wrong. And I think it takes a real revelation for leadership to truly embrace that and move past it. Once you go through that door, it's very difficult to turn around and go back. And I think that when you see those kinds of discordant things where Nielsen Media may be having a problem getting black and Latino households to trust it to measure properly, there very often is this resonance with cultural competency, that cultural competency isn't where it should be in a company and that's a company that clearly is working on it and clearly understands that it's fundamental to its business success. But these things are difficult and, you know, to be blunt, I'm a white guy. It's difficult for us white guys in this country to get this.

GORDON: Well, thank you for your candor and your time. We greatly appreciate it.

Mr. VISCONTI: Thank you very much, Ed.

GORDON: Luke Visconti is a partner and co-founder of DiversityInc. Media.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ed Gordon
Hard hitting, intelligent, honest, and no-nonsense describe Ed Gordon's style and approach to reporting that have made the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster one of the most respected journalists in the business today. Known for his informative on-air interaction with newsmakers, from world leaders to celebrities, the name Ed Gordon has become synonymous with the "big" interview.