By: Dr. Evelyn Hill
May 14, 2020
A few years ago I was employed by a large greeting card company in the mid-west. I started at the very bottom of the organization as a clerk. After a while I begin to apply for other positions and landed near the Human Resources Department on the first floor. I regularly was in contact with some of the high level directors and managers of the corporation. I immediately noticed that very few people of color were in higher paying positions. People of color worked primarily on the packing lines, janitorial services and in food preparation at that time.
It was extremely inspiring in later years of my stay at the company to see the company begin to hire highly educated, professional people of color in higher paying positions as directors and regional managers.
I was so inspired by seeing the increase in people of color in management positions that I decided to go back to school. I was hopeful that with increased education, good attendance and good performance appraisals, I might qualify and be considered for a higher position that included both more responsibility and a bigger paycheck. I increased my activity of networking on the site during lunch periods and by using my gifts as a volunteer in facilitating and training. I was asked to serve as a volunteer to help roll-rate and facilitate a company wide Cultural Diversity training module.
At the time I only had one year of college under my belt. So I went back to school and completed my Associate Degree and soon after a Bachelor's Degree in Human Resource Management. I then began to work on a Masters Degree and a Doctorate Degree. I thought that since my employer paid for my education and encouraged it's staff to apply for in-house positions that I would be considered for a higher paying position. To my surprise every higher paying position I applied for, I was turned down. I was not even interviewed for a higher paying position.
One day I was asked by those in organization to look at some new cards that were about to be put on the market. I was asked my opinion about the wording, images and shapes of the cards. I immediately noticed these cards were targeting white women only. I mentioned to those who were conducting the survey, that the cards looked fine, the content and pictures on the cards were done in the spirit of excellence which was both a tradition and expectation of this greeting card company.
I mentioned to those conducting the surveys that their cards did not address people of other ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans or Asian Americans. The survey specialist informed me that the cards were targeting married white females between the ages of 25 to 40 who were stay-at-home mothers. These were the ones in the past who regularly purchased cards from this organization.
I informed the survey specialist that they were missing a lot of women and men with their limited view of whom their customers could be. Even after my input there was little change in the cards that came from this greeting card company until a competing card company began to make cards for all types of ethnic groups and lifestyles.
Shortly after that, I noticed that our marketing strategies changed. The organization did commercials on television with people of different ethnic groups. We also began to market to customers from different religious backgrounds and their special holidays and lifestyles which was very different from the past marketing strategy that only included white women. There were stores opened in targeted locations that provided services to people from various ethnic groups.
Our company started a new card line targeting African American customers and another card line
targeting Hispanic families. Soon many more card lines begin to pop up around the country and the world. Our company developed a much broader customer base that appealed to various ethnic groups, backgrounds, religious groups and lifestyles. Profits went up the roof and so did our stock, we got better raises and benefits as employees.
This is a good example of how inclusion can and will have a positive effect in your organizations bottom line. May I encourage you to hear the voices of people who look different from you. Allow different groups to be in your board meeting and a part of your leadership team. Allow new and fresh perspectives to enter your offices by hearing new voices and ideas from people who may be different. I eventually left this organization after working there for almost twenty years. I am however, very grateful for the opportunity to complete my education and the great benefits I enjoyed while working for this organization. .
Below are few of the organization’s stats:
* Consolidated Annual Revenues: Approximately $4 billion in 2018 Employees:
* Employs approximately 30,000 worldwide
* Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality (Human Rights Campaign)
* America’s Best Employers for Diversity (Forbes/Statista)
* America’s Best Employers (Forbes/Statista)
* Top 3 America’s Best Employers for Women (Forbes/Statista)
* UK Superbrand (superbrands.uk.com)
* Greeting Card Brand of the Year (Harris Poll)
* Top 25 Well-Being Leaders (Global Healthcare Resources)
* Caring Company Award (Hong Kong Council of Social Service)