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Dibs on Diversity Recruiting:
What's Really Going on in the Marketplace

By William H. Burgess, III

Let's call it like it is. Although it came into being in the corporate sector to mitigate the sting of affirmative action and its much maligned racial quotas. "Diversity recruiting" is a new term slapped on the old numbers game minus the numbers. Unlike affirmative action, however, with its emphasis on African-Americans, diversity recruiting has broadened its target community to include all minority groups and women. Aggressively espoused by corporate human resources offices and external affairs departments, as well as by federal, state and city governments, it is premised on the notion that we live and must participate in a "diverse" global market place and that our workforce must reflect this diversity.

Senior Management Buy-In

In some instances, however, it remains a hard sell to many senior corporate executives, who still consider "diversity recruiting" a form of affirmative action. Even so, they have no choice but to go along. There is a huge population of diverse consumers in every industry, and it makes good, sound, strategic business sense to cater to the needs, aspirations, desires and wants of these consumers. Indeed, minority and women consumers collectively make up the majority of America's consumer base today. Like it or not, corporate managers and business owners large and small have to be mindful of this reality in order to remain profitable and competitive. Job seekers at all levels of the marketplace can therefore take heart that diversity in recruitment is here to stay.

Sectors Most Open to Diverse Candidates

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and with the onset of the current weak economy, three disciplines have exhibited very strong diversity recruiting, hiring managers say: nursing and health care, security and construction. Trained nurses are in high demand. Nursing has suddenly drawn an extraordinary amount of interest from male candidates, many of whom are coming into the profession after being unable to find jobs in their primary areas of training and expertise. Studies show that recent college graduates are obtaining certification in rehabilitative health, physical therapy and recreational therapy, as well as studying toward the traditional nursing degrees to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) as well as registered nurses (RNs). The security industry is in need of well-trained individuals. Primarily because of 9/11, security has become a major concern not only for the airlines and airports but also for government, corporate, civic and cultural locationas, nationally and internationally. Recruits are not only your local store security guards. They also include highly trained and sophisticated surveillance systems professionals, more often than not with college degree. They are responsible for creating and manning elaborately integrated, multifaceted and interdisciplinary security monitoring systems that are becoming a permanent part of our post-9/11 society. Construction also seems to be recruiting a more diverse workforce, particularly in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan areas where post-9/11 rebuilding is taking place. Moreover, as long as interest rates remain low, there will be substantial home-building demand nationwide. Construction is looking for workers with experience in project management, engineering of all stripes, architecture and its related facilities, interior design and purchasing functions, as well as consulting and research services. This industry will be especially open to diverse companies of all sizes because contract bidders often have to show diversity subcontracting and second-tier courcing in order to compete for the larger, more lucrative contracts.

The Not-for-Profit Sector

The major not-for-profit organizations have curtailed recruiting in general, let alone to meet diversity goals and objectives. The main reason is money. Even in good economic times, nonprofits are hard-pressed to secure and maintain funding. The situation has worsened afer 9/11, with the persistently sluggish economy and the subsequent falloff in corporate and individual philanthropy.

This article was published in Network Journal magazine.