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Celebrating 50 Years of Diversity & Inclusion
By John R. Miller III, founder, chairman and CEO, Equal Opportunity Publications (EOP), Inc.
We celebrate 50 years of diversity and inclusion (D&I), from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the 2018 midterm elections that placed D&I front and center.
Equal Opportunity remains the nation’s first and leading career magazine for recent college graduates, professionals and entrepreneurs who are members of minority groups and diverse cultures.
First in its field, Equal Opportunity has always been on the leading edge of diversity employment trends affecting human resources (HR) managers, college students, professionals and entrepreneurs in all disciplines, especially in the STEM fields.
We celebrate how Equal Opportunity continues to push for increased workforce diversity and inclusion via award-winning digital and print editorial content, an online career center at eop.com, three EOP social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and six nationally recognized career expos.
We couldn’t do this without the steadfast support of loyal readers spanning generations - from the Millennials and Gen Zers who follow us now on all of our media platforms to the first Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who began reading the magazine in the decades after its inception - and the unwavering advertising support of more than 1,700 major corporations and federal government agencies. We thank them, as all of that continued support has made this possible, and continues to do so.
For 50 years we’ve been the unquestioned leader in diversity career and recruitment media. So as we look to the next 50 years, Equal Opportunity will continue to push for inclusion and diversity to further narrow the gaps.
Read on for more reflections on the motivation for Equal Opportunity magazine, on the history that drove its launch, and on its mission, which continues now and into the future.
Equal Opportunity Publications’ 50th Anniversary
In 1966 I was called into the office of Howard Morgans, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G). I thought I was being fired as a sales manager in P&G’s packaged soap division. Instead, Morgans says, “John, we have a special project for you. We’d like you to hire and train P&G’s first African-American salesman.”
That event changed my life and career.
During the first week of training, Kit Marshall, my protégée, and I, got thrown out of two stores along the Ohio River, with one of the storeowners using a racial slur against Marshall and threatening to take all P&G products off the shelf if I brought him back into the store. He and I were astounded, and he threatened to quit at the end of the first week. I convinced him to stay. “You can’t,” I tell him. “You’re P&G’s first African-American role model, an opportunity to prove to future black professionals that this integration can be done.”
Marshall went on to become P&G’s first African-American sales manager, and the human resources (HR) landscape of corporate America began to change.
But how and why did it change? It changed not because white America’s executives thought it would be good for their business. It changed because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, and the new Act put into law that every company and U.S. government agency with 50 or more employees must make a good-faith effort to reach and recruit women and members of minority groups.
We have encouraged Congress to incorporate within Title VII the rights of people with disabilities because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not accomplish the same kind of momentum in corporate America for people with disabilities as it does for women and members of minority groups under Title VII.
Thankfully, Section 503 under the U.S. Department of Labor, was passed into law in 2013, and it has given all government contractors, companies and government agencies, seven years to achieve a 5% hiring objective of people with disabilities. The teeth in this law are equivalent to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Equal Opportunity Magazine’s Start
In July 1968 I was in Detroit, MI, and saw the Detroit riots unfold. Tanks were in the streets and 50 people were killed. Then followed Miami, FL, Newark, NJ and Los Angeles, CA - burning, looting and loss of lives all because of a lack of jobs and, thus, a lack of buying power.
It became clear to me, as I watched the city of Detroit burn, that it was all about money and jobs, and the idea to do something to help came to me as I stared out the hotel window (we were not allowed out of the building).
So I came up with the idea to publish an annual career magazine for college minority graduates, and Equal Opportunity magazine was born: an affirmative action career magazine that had as its mission - as it does today 50 years later - to help minority college graduates get jobs and advance up the corporate ladder.
When I returned to New York City, I researched with whom I could go into business that knew the African-American community. The name Alfred Duckett kept coming up, so I contacted him and presented him with the chance to be editor and partner of Equal Opportunity magazine.
Duckett had been a past editor of Ebony and Jet magazines, co-authored two books for my Brooklyn Dodgers hero Jackie Robinson, and helped Martin Luther King, Jr. write his I Have A Dream address.
We met in a small restaurant in Harlem on 125th Street and shook hands. That event would make us - Equal Opportunity Publications (EOP), Inc. - the first and only interracially owned and staffed company in the country, and make Equal Opportunity magazine the nation’s first career magazine for members of minority groups.
Our press release and picture would appear in more than 30 newspapers across the country, including The New York Times and Washington Post, and in Advertising Age, Business Week and Magazine Week.
On January 12 of that year, during United Negro History Week, which later transformed into Black History Month in 1976 and is now also known as African-American History Month, Duckett and I appeared live on The Today Show, and were interviewed by Barbara Walters and Edwin Newman. We wrote letters to all of the state governors, and received more than 40 endorsements of our plan to launch Equal Opportunity magazine.
We also sent a subscription form to 1,200 college placement offices, and received more than 900 paid subscriptions at $3.50 each. The timing of our launch and our mission was on target. We sent 1,000 letters to personnel directors with a business reply card, and received through the mail 26 pages of advertising without making one personal phone call confirming, yet again, that our recruitment magazine would be an instant success.
Over the past 50 years we have received letters of support encouraging our mission to achieve meaningful equal opportunity and diversity from Presidents Carter, Nixon and Reagan.
Title VII Impact
Fifty years ago, after Congress under President Lyndon Johnson passed Title VII, companies began recognizing the importance of hiring African Americans. Back then it was all about equal opportunity and quotas, and the focus was to reach and recruit African Americans. Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans were not included in the recruitment mission back then, and neither were women.
The word “diversity” was not yet referenced, and all incoming blacks (the term African American would not arrive on the HR landscape until well into the 1980s) would be hired in jobs such as community service manager, equal opportunity manager and affirmative action coordinator.
African Americans initially would not ascend the corporate ladder - they were suppressed at lower levels within companies. It would take 15 years before African Americans would begin to take on more meaningful responsibility and assume titles that their white peers had held for 100 years. Women were not sought either, even though they comprised 50% of the workforce. They were confined to secretarial levels.
Annual shareholder meetings were replete with African Americans and women handing out annual reports, and the “show and tell” of tokenism was in full swing.
It was Gloria Steinem in 1973 that sensitized corporate America to the fact that women were only earning 64 cents on the dollar compared to white males, and to the fact that the glass ceiling was holding them back. In the early 1970s African Americans also felt women usurping any momentum they were achieving as they competed for the same jobs.
The buying power of black America in the early 1970s was $100 billion. As companies and government agencies began hiring qualified African Americans in earnest, black buying power was enhanced five-fold to $500 billion toward the end of the century, and magazines such as Ms., Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business were launched to tap the new corporate executives of diversity.
Women, too, would see their buying power swell, but the glass ceiling has remained firmly in place, with only modest gains gained in terms of taking their place along with African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans on corporate boards in the last five decades.
Diversity in the Boardroom
As the Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards points out, women and members of minority groups have seen little change in representation on Fortune 500 boards despite modest gains.
The multi-year study published by the Alliance for Board Diversity (ABD), in collaboration with Deloitte for the 2016 census, provides powerful metrics on the slow change of diversity in the boardroom.
For instance, women and minorities occupy nearly 31% of the board seats of Fortune 500 companies, a small increase over the last four years. However, while that’s the highest level in the six years of the study, white men continue to hold more than two thirds of the positions, according the Missing Pieces Report.
This research for 2016 underscores that companies have made only incremental progress in fostering diversity in boardrooms.
And last year, according the Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. report, Board Monitor 2017: Is Diversity at an Impasse?, the share of seats that went to women in 2016 fell by two percentage points, to 27.8%, ending a seven-year run of year-on-year gains. This represents a drop to a level predating that of 2014.
Based on this 2016 data, Heidrick & Struggles pushed out its forecast of when a 50-50 gender split will occur among director appointments to 2032, six years later than its last prediction.
The report also shows “the aggregate proportion of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Asian-American appointments averaged 20.1% for the four years prior to 2017.”
At the same time these modest gains were taking place over decades, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) would oversee all government contracts - well over 100,000 of them - and the greatest fear of all HR managers was getting a call for a “desk audit” that could put into jeopardy any government contract.
Employers were competing for a $600 billion defense budget. Today, under President Trump, the defense budget tops $700 billion.
By 1977 progress for African Americans in employment began to make credible gains, but they were still being hired to fulfill quotas. Companies and government agencies were given visible acknowledgement that they were conforming to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, thus ensuring the flow of government contracts. HR managers began to quietly resent the quota system.
New Needs, New Magazines
Due to the preponderance of defense contractors, and their need to reach and recruit high-tech talent, Equal Opportunity Publications (EOP), Inc. launched two diversity recruitment magazines in 1978: Woman Engineer and Minority Engineer. Both new publications became instant successes, and they were the nation’s first high-tech affirmative action/diversity recruitment magazines.
To ensure credibility of readership, EOP, Inc. hired BPA, an independent auditor, to confirm the readership of Woman Engineer and Minority Engineer , thus giving both high-tech diversity magazines the lead over all other diversity recruitment magazines.
While women and members of minority groups enjoyed a plethora of recruitment magazines geared toward them - most of them published by EOP, Inc. - there was a glaring lack of any recruitment magazine reaching out to people with disabilities.
Despite the fact that people with disabilities were not yet protected by any meaningful act of Congress except the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that only applied to accessibility to buildings, EOP, Inc. made the decision in 1985 to launch the nation’s first and only recruitment magazine for people with disabilities: CAREERS & the Handicapped.
Our first issue included a braille section in it, and people with disabilities affixed labels to the magazine. But we made an unfortunate mistake with the title of the magazine. Readers called and wrote to insist that we change the name of the magazine to CAREERS & the disABLED, which we did with the next edition.
Twenty seven years ago, EOP, Inc. launched the nation’s first Awards Ceremony Banquet that recognizes the Top 10 Employees with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors, and the Top Public-Sector and Private-Sector Employers.
CAREERS & the disABLED magazine will once again host the now Annual Employee and Employer of the Year Awards in April 2019, which has been sponsored for the past 15 years by Lockheed Martin. The Awards Ceremony Banquet will be held at the New Yorker Hotel in New York, NY.
By 1990 the world population began to change, and global diversity spread to the U.S. seemingly overnight. We witnessed affirmative action transition into equal opportunity, and then morph into diversity. By 1994 diversity and inclusion was the new term referring to the new workforce.
Due to this new global diversity and the strong need for technical talent, EOP, Inc. launched another BPA-audited circulation magazine: Workforce Diversity for Engineering and IT Professionals. The magazine reaches professional women, members of minority groups and diverse cultures, and people with disabilities in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And we have modified the name in the last couple of years to STEM Workforce Diversity to reflect the growth among all STEM disciplines.
In 2002 CAREERS & the disABLED magazine hosted its first Career Expo for People with Disabilities and Wounded Warriors, and I would have the pleasure and pride to cut the ribbon of the event with former Senator Bob Dole, who has been on our advisory board. Since then EOP, Inc. expanded its show division to include career expos in Boston, MA, Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC, New York, NY and Dallas, TX.
Responding to the expansion of the African-American and Hispanic populations, EOP, Inc. expanded its diversity and inclusion recruitment magazines to include African-American Career World and Hispanic Career World in 2004.
As presidents and CEOs of corporate America embraced diversity and inclusion because of the changing global workforce, women, members of minority groups and diverse cultures, and people with disabilities were no longer being hired to fill a quota. They were being hired to be a bottom-line asset helping corporations design, package and market their brands and services to all global markets.
This trend required knowing new cultures and languages that diversity and inclusion, or D&I, could finally deliver. The results of this strategy dropped to the bottom line and, thus, shareholders were made happy by the new strategy of diversity.
In 2009 EOP, Inc. introduced a new diversity and inclusion product and announced its first STEM Diversity Career Expo that was to be held in Washington, DC, on May 28. The new career event would promote job candidates who are women, members of minority groups, and people with disabilities from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
We have seen great progress achieved on behalf of women, members of minority groups and diverse cultures, and people with disabilities.
For instance, in the last half century we have witnessed how globally focused companies have reaped the bottom-line benefits of employing a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Research backs up the competitive edge companies gain via a diversified workforce. A 2015 McKinsey & Company study shows ethnically diverse firms are 35% more likely to earn above-average revenue, and gender-diverse firms are 15% more likely to earn above-average revenue. And now more than ever before you see Fortune 500 companies and large government agencies actively and heavily recruit a diversified talent pool that provides cutting-edge innovation, increased productivity and competitive edge in the U.S. and global marketplace.
D&I further permeates every level of academia and higher education now, too, as colleges, universities and graduate schools also celebrate and encourage diversity of thought and ideas - something that companies and organizations competing in today’s world seek as they want their workforce to reflect the globally diverse clients they serve here in the U.S. and around the world.
However, there’s still more work to be done.
Women have gained on pay, but there’s still a gender gap, with women still only earning 72 cents on the dollar compared to men. We have also seen only 2% of all corporate boards of directors include women and minorities, and have seen that number rise in recent years, but only modestly.
In addition, we have seen the unemployment rate for people with disabilities back in the mid 1980s stand at 68%. That percentage has markedly improved. But while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported earlier this year that the unemployment rate for persons with a disability declined to 9.2% in 2017, it’s still higher than the unemployment rate for persons without a disability, which BLS reported as having declined to 4.2% during the same year.
Thus, we must forge ahead, and continue to push for D&I to narrow the gaps even further.
We started back in 1964 with a historic Act that would change the future of all working women and members of minority groups. Now Section 503, with its objectives stretching for another two-plus years, will hopefully ensure the same objectives are achieved for all people with disabilities.
The climate for this kind of positive change has never been better. The current unemployment rate of 3.7% - the lowest rate since 1969 - has created the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for minorities, women and people with disabilities.
The message all voters sent to the world 10 years ago when Barack Obama was elected, making him the nation’s first African-American president, and today with the 2018 midterm elections that included 411 women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates challenging the status quo by running for House, Senate and governor seats, is that, at last, we have recognized that the time for equal opportunity employment, and meaningful diversity and inclusion is upon us like never before in history.
Let all of us seize the moment by embracing the historic changes in civil rights and workforce diversity that we’ve all been a part of during the past 50 years, and take what we’ve learned into the future.
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