The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is out to prove that organizations can be innovative and creative as it pertains to implementing workplace diversity initiatives. In fact, the Commission went one step further – it did prove that such organizations still exist and has rewarded these associations for their best practices.
The EEOC recently presented the agency’s first-ever "Freedom To Compete Award" to six organizations for implementing initiatives that promote fair and open competition in the workplace.
"Today, we honor companies, associations and people whose extraordinary efforts embody a key tenet of the Commission’s goals: to ensure that all individuals have the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace on a level playing field," EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez said at a ceremony at EEOC headquarters in downtown Washington.
"Ultimately, the Freedom to Compete Awards are about setting examples, and teaching. The best way to further the equal employment opportunity mission is to learn from one another."
The six award recipients cover a range of industries and professions including high-tech, manufacturing, insurance, retail/distribution, law, and public service:
– PK USA of Shelbyville, Indiana – For using alternative strategies to recruit, hire and promote employees from a Latino community outside its traditional employment area. The company trained all of its employees in cultural diversity and also arranged education and other support activities through various state and county schools and service agencies to provide a smooth transition for these new workers and their families. As a result of this initiative, more than a quarter of the full- time PK U.S.A. workforce is currently comprised of Latinos.
– Giant Eagle, Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – For an initiative to train students with disabilities to secure a variety of positions at the company’s grocery stores. By partnering with schools and local service agencies, the company developed alternative strategies to create a strong support system that enabled these students to hold permanent positions with the company and contribute to their own well-being and independence.
– Minority Corporate Counsel Association – For creating "KAN-Do", a multi-faceted model for addressing employment barriers to diversity in the legal profession. KAN-Do offers persons of diverse backgrounds and women knowledge, access and networks to address barriers to opportunity in recruitment, hiring, retention, and career advancement in the legal profession.
– IBM Corporation — For "Project View", a nationwide initiative using small events to bring together highly qualified diverse college graduates with company managers who have available positions. About half of IBM’s university hires from diverse groups come through Project View.
– Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey — For the "Supervisor Candidate Development Program (Leadership Development)," an initiative to enable diverse employees to become more competitive for supervisor positions. The initiative includes education and training components, as well as assigned coaches, to ensure a level playing field for advancement. Over the past six years, more than 70 percent of the promotions from the initiative were obtained by diverse employees.
– The State of Maryland — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., with bipartisan legislative support in 2004, was the first Governor in the nation to create a cabinet-level Department of Disabilities. The creation of the Department provides impetus for efforts to unify and comprehensively reform Maryland state policy and programs for people with disabilities.
The awards are part of Dominguez’ Freedom to Compete Initiative, a national outreach, education and coalition-building campaign launched in 2002 to provide free and unfettered access to employment opportunities for all individuals. The central theme of the initiative is that every individual deserves the opportunity to compete and advance as far as his/her talent and ability allows without regard to discriminatory barriers.