Boeing Vice President, Global Diversity and Employee Rights
The Boeing Company
Boeing Asian American Professional Association
Southern California Conference
Long Beach, Calif.
October 02, 2004
Dr. Chu, Gary Toyama, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen.
First, let say thank you. Not simply for inviting me to participate in this stirring event. But for allowing me the opportunity to draw inspiration from the work that you are doing.
I have never met a Boeing employee who gets tired of seeing our products and people in action . . . our astronauts working aboard International Space Station . . . a C-17 coming in to land . . . a communications satellite being prepared for launch. I never met an employee who was not proud of contribution they are making to this exciting business.
I am no different. I am fascinated by the technical work that we do at Boeing, even though I am an attorney by profession, not a scientist or an engineer.
But I feel fortunate for another reason. I get to marvel at the power of diversity every single day. Looking across this room, I feel energized. I see a strong cross-section of resources, people who have the skills and the influence to change Boeing - and the world. That's exciting.
The great thing about these celebrations is that they cause me to learn more about our diverse groups. Asian, Pacific Americans have made wonderful contributions to the way we live and work. History abounds with examples of the influence of Asian Pacific Americans on our culture - from pyrotechnics to plasma screens, from computers to cuisine.
Asian Pacific Americans are represented in every avenue of American life. Astronauts Ellison Onizuka and Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-American astronaut, will be familiar to people mostly in our business. Norman Mineta, the U.S Secretary of Transportation, was the first Asian Pacific American to serve in the Cabinet. Jerry Yang was the founder of Yahoo.
And who can forget the moving and heroic efforts of Betty Ong, the courageous flight attendant who calmly talked to authorities after the high-jacking of her flight on 9-11?
Asian Pacific Americans appear on every honors list from the Nobel Prize to Boeing's Technical Fellowship. They played a huge role in the founding of our country. It's a matter of record that for decades succeeding waves of emigrants crossed the Pacific to build new lives in America. They labored in small businesses, endured the Alaskan cold to bring fish from the sea, toiled in western lumber camps, and built the railroad that opened up the West.
It's no wonder there has been a proposal for another Statue of Liberty, this one on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
Closer to home, the Asian Pacific impact has also been enormous at Boeing, now and in the past. It promises to be even more so in the future. I hesitate to mention those who have led this effort, only because your collective contribution has been so vast that I am bound to leave some out some important names.
But let me mention one pioneer. I didn't know until recently that it was a Chinese-American design engineer who helped a fledgling Boeing to get an industry footing in the early 1900s. Wong Tsu a graduate of MIT and one of the few aeronautical engineers in the country was one of Bill Boeing's first hires in 1916 - the year the company was founded. Tsu designed the Model C training seaplane, which went on to become Boeing's first financial success. Fifty-three of the aircraft were sold to the U.S. Navy and two to the Army . . . a huge order in its day.
Wong Tsu is a symbol of what diversity is all about. He and others represent the true value of what diversity brings to the business bottom line - new ideas, theories and progress. Diversity is about people, ideas, theories and cultures. It's about better ways of understanding and doing things. Our own views and approaches are as infinitely varied as the people and cultures that we seek to embrace and understand. For that reason, I am particularly eager to learn from your experiences - now, and after I go back to Chicago.
We are all fortunate to be part of a company like Boeing, which is making a determined effort not only to create new opportunities for all qualified people but to involve them in forging a new direction for the enterprise. With cautious optimism, I can report that our effort appears to be paying off. One good guide is the Boeing Employee Survey. Not surprisingly, employees continue to tell us that they want to be involved and that their ideas should be heard. The good news is that 71 percent feel that they are being treated fairly, no matter what their origins and background. While that's encouraging, it could be better. What this also says is that 29 percent of our people do not feel as though they are being treated fairly. This should not be acceptable. It can and must be better. We must strive towards a 100 percent satisfaction rate.
Your organization and affinity groups across Boeing will, we hope, have an influence on improving our employee perceptions still further. I believe that affinity groups, working with others of good will, are key to Boeing achieving and embracing the diversity that we are striving for.
One can't fail to be impressed by the progress of the Boeing Association of Asian Pacific Americans. Your membership continues to grow, I'm told, up to almost 1,000 members enterprise-wide.
The BAAPA can be held up as one example of what is possible for all the affinity groups at Boeing. Already, you have logged some significant accomplishments, among them helping to form the Huntington Beach Boeing Employees Hispanic Network. Following the example of one of the things that we stressed at the summit, working across affinity groups to support and encourage each other. Your membership roster reads like a hall of fame, not just for Boeing but for America and the world.
Affinity groups are close to my heart because they truly are instruments of progress. In July, we held our first Affinity Group Summit at the Boeing Leadership Center in St. Louis. There, we brought together more than 120 leaders from 60 affinity groups around the enterprise.
The goal of the summit was to encourage leaders discuss and create plans to help leverage diversity as a key business driver . . . for innovation, versatility and agility.
I hope that those of you who attended got some valuable insight into how to align your strategies with those of Boeing. And I hope we made headway in positioning our affinity groups as the business partners that they are. I feel confident that participants left with a renewed sense of commitment to the task at hand - to working together to ensure that Boeing is first in class when it comes to valuing and leveraging diversity.
I know from experience that the promoting the values of diversity and putting them into practice is far from easy. For that reason, candid feedback from you is essential as we gain momentum; we want to know about the obstacles as well as the opportunities.
Let me give you my take on why I think your activities are so important. The Affinity Groups program has two goals:
First, it provides an opportunity for members to get ahead by gaining access to what really matters most in the end. That's access to networking at all levels, professional development that takes into account your special talents, skills and background.
Second, it allows you to contribute to Boeing's business success by offering what it seeks across the globe - the best-of-the-best. Affinity groups and talents they nurture, have a direct bearing on the outcome of our business initiatives and strategies. They help to build pride and a sense of involvement and they help people like me to fulfill our crucial diversity strategy and affirmative action obligations.
But most of all, affinity groups will play a key role in building Boeing's future.
Boeing leaders want us to change the face of our company, not just at home but around the world. And they want to do it not just because it is the right thing to do but because it also makes good sense in a business environment that is increasingly diverse and open to a broader range of ideas.
A multicultural team that has the experience and background to anticipate and manage important changes and trends brings to the table a synergy that no one group can match.
I am heartened by what appears to be a new era of enlightenment in American industry. Diversity is becoming an essential part of an increasingly open, progressive and competitive marketplace.
Diversity is paying off, culturally and economically. A recent study of 74 multinational firms based in eight countries, including the United States, showed that those with satisfactory or unsatisfactory diversity policies and practices did significantly worse than their competitors in terms of increased share price within five years. This is one of the first studies to establish that very good and excellent diversity policies and programs are related to economic success for global companies.
While the recruitment and development of people from all cultures seems to be assuming its rightful place as an entrepreneurial effort that makes both ethical and business sense, there is still much to be done.
Coming together at forums like this is great and beneficial. But we must do more. For us to achieve our diversity goals there must be increased opportunity and participation at all levels of the company. The work of affinity groups is a key to making this happen.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, said Dr. Martin Luther King, and our jobs won't always be easy. There are some who just don't get it, but there are many, many more who do. People of good will, working with affinity groups will lead the way to reaching our goal - a goal that will help individuals and the Boeing Company. Working together, we can make a difference.
Dr. King also said: "We are all caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied by a single garment of destiny. Whatever impacts one of us directly, impacts all of us indirectly."
Thanks you again for the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful event.