Global diversity news briefs – August 2012
Emilie Heymans made history in London last month by becoming the first female diver to win a medal at 4 consecutive Olympic Games. She and her diving partner Jennifer Abel captured the bronze—Canada’s first medal at the Games—in the synchronized 3-metre springboard event. Heymans is from St. Lambert, Quebec.
According to a recent survey of 7,000 Canadian employees, men and women want very different things from a potential employer. Women’s preferences include flexible working arrangements (49%), accessibility (28%), and work-life balance (17%). Men prefer financially sound companies (42%), strong management (37%) and global career prospects (86%). The poll was conducted by ICMA International and Randstad Canada.
The University of Prince Edward Island has closed down its diversity office, citing provincial cuts as the reason. University officials say it was a cost-saving measure not only for the diversity office but for all departments, since the province cut its funding by 3%. Officials said there would be no cutback to diversity services which will now be delivered by the Webster Centre for Teaching and Learning.
With the words “We made it!” South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected head of the African Union Commission, the first woman to hold the post. She beat the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon, in a closely fought election over several rounds of voting. Her former husband, South African President Jacob Zuma, was one of the first to offer his congratulations, saying, “It means a lot for Africa … for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women.”
A new report from McKinsey & Company shows that while there is clearly a need to increase female participation in the Asian workforce and upper management, most companies aren’t making it a strategic priority. Women Matter: An Asian Perspective has revealed that women still face barriers in the workforce and in upper management particularly. The results were based on a survey of the boards and executive committees of 744 companies, as well as 1500 senior managers. The report recommended 3 key elements to improving the imbalance: management commitment, and programs and policies that will equip female employees with the skills and networks needed to progress through the company easily.
The New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) has adopted a gender diversity rule that will compel listed companies to disclose to investors how many women they have in their senior ranks. If companies have a formal diversity policy, they will also be required to report on how they are measuring up against it. The rule, still subject to FMA approval, is a voluntary code. Currently the majority of NZX 100 companies have no female directors, while women account for 21% of management positions reporting directly to chief executives.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to “change the law” to allow people to wear religious symbols in the workplace. Cameron’s pledge comes before a religious discrimination suit in September when the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case of Nadia Eweida who lost her job at British Airways for wearing a crucifix. “I fully support the right of people to wear religious symbols at work; I think it is absolutely a vital religious freedom,” Cameron said. In response, XpertHR employment law editor John Read said, “If religious symbols were positively allowed, then arguments that employees should be given an express right to manifest their beliefs at the workplace in other ways would certainly follow, even if, like Eweida, these manifestations were not required by the religion or belief in question. This could create chaos for employers.”
A comprehensive survey of almost 2,000 law professionals has revealed that the glass ceiling is still a reality, despite diversity programs in place at their firms. The same barriers are faced by minority lawyers. The report confirms that the more an individual diverges from the white male norm, the less well-paid and less satisfied they are with their career progress. Case in point: the top 10% of white male lawyers earn a minimum of £200,000-£300,000, while the top 10% of white women and minority men are in the £100,000-£200,000 minimum band. The survey was conducted by the InterLaw Diversity Forum that has 1,200 members and supporters from more than 70 law firms.
Baker Daniels LLP, a Colorado law firm, has launched a Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship program in support of its commitment to increasing diversity in the legal profession. The firm will offer the fellowships annually to 4 second-year law students that include a 10-week summer clerkship and a $10,000 stipend at the conclusion of their summer associate positions. Interested law students with an anticipated graduation date of 2014 should complete the online application for the 2013 Diversity Fellowship by August 19.
Astronaut Sally Ride has died. Ride was not only the first US woman in space but also the youngest American at 32, when she blasted off in 1983. At the time, feminist Gloria Steinem declared, “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists.” Ride’s accomplishment came 20 years after Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet textile worker, orbited the earth, making her the first woman in space.
Three former employees of Wet Seal Inc. have filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the teen clothing store operator, claiming management set out to fire African-American employees because they didn’t fit the retailer’s “brand image.” Plaintiffs and former Wet Seal managers Nicole Cogell, Kai Hawkins and Myriam Saint-Hilaire have asked the court to order they be rehired and paid unspecified lost pay, benefits, compensatory and punitive damages. The company, which denies the allegations, operates 470 Wet Seal stores across 47 states and Puerto Rico.
State Representative Barney Frank has married his longtime partner James Ready in Boston, becoming the first sitting member of congress to be in a same-sex marriage. He was also the first openly gay member of congress when he came out in the 1980s. Frank has represented Fall River, Massachusetts since 1981.