August 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 4 
Main Feature

Networking Boeing diversity

How to pull everyone’s qualities into one web

Networking Boeing diversityYes, Boeing has great diversity—that combination of all the different qualities the members of The Boeing Company bring to work. But those qualities still need to be pulled into a single, cross-enterprise web. It is no simple task to develop a diverse company “culture” capable of ensuring a profitable business—one where the business value of diversity is clearly visible to employees, customers and shareholders.

Indeed, Boeing diversity efforts were instrumental in helping Aerospace Support win the 2003 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, said Douglas Stuart, Business Excellence manager at Integrated Defense Systems’ Future Combat Systems program and a member of that award effort.

This win underscored that business excellence depends on how well a company leverages its diversity.

“In exploring Boeing’s diversity effort,” Stuart said, “the award examiners asked a lot of questions about how do you address diversity, how does diversity play into the different activities and initiatives you have going on. They came to recognize diversity at Boeing was a really cool thing, and a unique thing that we were doing.”

It’s a complex challenge, said Yvonne Johnson, Manager of Instructional Technology at IDS Aerospace Support in St. Louis: “Diversity is multifaceted. If you don’t have the right people in place and understand what each one of those individuals has to add to your business,” she noted, “it just may be reflected in the profit and loss of your business.”

Two instruments Boeing has developed to network its many intangibles are diversity councils and affinity groups.

Diversity councils are employee groups that draw together people from every part of a given business site and work together with the site Diversity Focal as an internal consultant group to site leadership. The Councils typically assist in furthering Boeing’s Integrated Global Diversity and Compliance Strategy by developing, communicating and deploying site-level diversity business initiatives.

Diversity councils have come up with resourceful ways to get Boeing’s global diversity strategy to “grip the road” locally. These include site-specific practices and processes such as employee development programs, recruiting plans, diversity training, ethnic-culture awareness and aligning diversity teams with other teams, such as Employee Involvement.

Affinity groups are a voluntary way for people to come together to further their personal and professional development, promote diversity, meet new people, enjoy social activities and network. They are employee associations—each with a Boeing executive champion—whose members share a common interest, such as race, gender or cultural identity. The number of affinity groups at Boeing went from 30 to 60 in the past year. The president of any affinity group at a particular site is an ex officio member of every other affinity group at that site.

Affinity groups are not exclusive, but inclusive. “These groups are open to everyone,” said Tippi Hall, the Boeing IDS Diversity manager in Long Beach, Calif. “I could join a disability affinity group, or the Asian or Hispanic group, and I’m African-American. And we encourage that the groups join each other’s groups, to learn about each other’s culture and the value they bring to the workplace.”

“We’re here to make sure that we are representative of an embracing, supportive culture,” Hall said.

Affinity groups at different sites have different styles. They work not only internally but also in the community, representing the company with external organizations. They partner, for example, with a disability rights group to sponsor a day at Boeing during which Boeing employees mentor people with disabilities.

Johnson said she sees Boeing’s diversity future as a very positive process: No. 1, she said, is Boeing knows where it wants to be and has a strategy.

“I think we’re going to be one of the top companies in diversity,” she said. “We already are one of the top companies in this area in numerous ways.”

Tippi Hall quote

—Walter Polt


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