Boeing Frontiers
September 2003
Volume 02, Issue 05
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Cover Story

Diversity School partnerships help drive innovation

Boeing embraces the idea that diversity of people, thought, teams and culture are the true drivers for innovation—a key to the company’s future growth.

That’s why Boeing has worked hard over the years to establish strong, long-term relationships with a wide range of Diversity Schools, including Historically Black Colleges & Universities. While representing only 3 percent of America’s 4,084 institutions of higher learning, HBCUs enroll 14 percent of all African-American students in higher education.

“Through a host of investment, R&D, intern programs, executive mentoring and other initiatives, we have developed long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with a large number of Diversity Schools we consider strategic to our future,” said Joan Robinson-Berry, deputy head of External Technical Affiliations. “We think we have great relationships with all these schools, but we were pleased to get special recognition recently about our efforts with HBCUs.”

According to a recent independent survey of the deans of those schools conducted by the publisher of U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, Boeing ranks first among 42 corporations and U.S. government agencies in providing “above and beyond” support of HBCUs.

As an example of this support, Boeing worked with students in the Mechanical Engineering department at Tennessee State University in Nashville to develop a breakthrough software program for airplane cockpit design that will comfortably accommodate flight crews of the future, including women. Boeing has used the technology on the Space Shuttle and the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control system program. “We have the experience of professionals while we’re still students,” said student Olusesan Ameye. “That’s priceless.”

Another HBCU student, Aisha Hunte, a 20-year-old junior at Texas Southern University in Houston, completed a six-month stint with Boeing working with the International Space Station program. “This co-op experience has exposed me to different software programming tools, technical documentation, payload software subsets, and practical implementation of the information I learn in school,” Hunte said.

Last year, President George W. Bush appointed Joyce E. Tucker, Boeing vice president of Global Diversity, Compliance and Policy Administration, to sit on the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges. Its mission is to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide excellence in education.

“Without the collective focus and energy of our HBCU partners,” Tucker said, “our individual efforts to become aerospace leaders in a new, diverse business world would be less effective.” Boeing conducts a companywide HBCU and Minority Institutions diversity summit each year to develop a well-focused integrated strategy for how it plans to interact with the broad range of Diversity Schools with which it has relationships. “This summit helps ensure we are balancing our activities across all these institutions and doing what’s best for both them and Boeing,” Robinson-Berry said.

Boeing weighs in with Supreme Court on global diversity

When Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in this summer’s landmark affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger, she specifically mentioned a friend of the court brief from American business, laying out the business case for diversity. It said there was a compelling state interest in preparing students to “succeed in and enhance the global community.”

The Boeing Company joined more than 60 other Fortune 500 companies in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action practices within its admission policies. Boeing submitted a “friend of the court” brief to emphasize the need for a qualified and diverse talent pool in today’s global economy. The university had been sued by a law school applicant who maintained that seeking to establish a racially diverse student body should not have been a factor in admissions.

But Justice O’Connor and a majority of the justices did not agree. “These benefits are not theoretical but real, as major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints,” wrote O’Connor. “We strongly believe that a diverse student body today offers us a globally adept workforce tomorrow,” said Joyce Tucker, vice president of Global Diversity, Compliance and Policy Administration. “It was important that Boeing, as a global company, advise the court of how a diverse talent pool contributes to innovation, versatility and agility in our business.”




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