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Special report: Interweave

A diversity conundrum

Companies talk up diversity in the workplace, stressing its importance in recruitment and succeeding in the market. Just don't try to put a number on it.

Published March 18, 2007

Robert Dutkowsky, Tech Data Corp
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]

John Ramil is President and Chief Operating Officer of TECO Energy, Inc.
[Times photo: Bob Croslin]

Many Tampa Bay companies say they value diversity, but when you ask for statistics, some of them get touchy while others get enthusiastic.

Take Clearwater's Tech Data Corp.

"When I walk the hallways, what I see is a company that has taken pride that diversity is an important component of its strategy," president Robert Dutkowsky said. He notes the company's recent award as one of the best places for gays and lesbians to work.

"That's not something we went out and campaigned for, but word gets out that there are companies that are friendly to all types of people and there are companies that are less friendly. We're on that positive list, and we're proud of that."

Private data

Dutkowsky is also proud that nearly half of Tech Data's U.S. employees are women and more than a third are minorities. But don't ask him for specifics on the makeup of the senior management team at the computer products distributor.

"We don't publish that," Dutkowsky said. "But we're very careful to give all types of people the chance to compete for all the top jobs in the company. Our senior management team has a good mixture of males, females and minorities."

He says that mixture is significant in recruiting. "The fact that vice president Barb Miller is here allows us to attract other high-powered females to join the company."

Other businesses, from Publix to Bright House Networks, declined to share their diversity figures. Another company that's shy about its numbers is Raymond James Financial Services in St. Petersburg. "I cannot give you statistics and/or numbers per company policy," said Barbara Galloway, human resources director.

However, the company's annual report tells part of the story: Open it up and the smiling faces of officers and directors belong to 18 white men in dark suits - and one woman, director Angela Biever.

Galloway said finding women and minorities for senior positions is difficult. "If you're out there looking for experience, it is harder because your pool of applicants is not as diverse."

She said Raymond James is focusing more attention on helping those who are hired become successful with mentoring and educational programs.

"Once you get them in the front door, you want to make sure you have the processes in place to keep that employee," she said. "Retention and recruiting go hand in hand."

Just good business

At TECO Energy in Tampa, where president John Ramil counts himself as Hispanic, diversity is serious business.

"For us to be an effective and successful business, our team members have to reflect the markets in which we operate," Ramil said. A prime example: "A fairly large portion of our market for both Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas are Hispanic customers, and some need to conduct business in Spanish. We have to have that ability and understanding in our call center, so we look for that and offer a premium to team members who are bilingual."

Once employees are hired, TECO offers mentoring and leadership training. Ramil said he mentored a young African-American accountant "who did so well somebody came and stole him from us."

Ramil said hiring managers are required to include managers from other departments in the hiring process for some jobs to get multiple perspectives.

"If everybody views things alike, you're not going to be an effective organization," he said. "The world's a lot more complex now. The way you did it last time doesn't work."

How diversity looks

A broad geographic reach often creates new diversity challenges. TECO Energy's coal mining business in eastern Kentucky is one example. "The market there is predominantly white males, and that's what you can draw from," Ramil said.

Companies that operate globally find different standards overseas.

"The U.S. is the grand melting pot, and other countries are not like that," said Dutkowsky at Tech Data. "In some countries there are different expectations and acceptances of different types of people.

"If you're not Japanese, you're not going to be the CEO of a Japanese company. But if you're a female, black, Hispanic, Chinese or a gay person or whatever, you have a chance to be a CEO of a company in America," he said. "We're a company that embodies that."

Helen Huntley can be reached at or (727) 893-8230.


[Last modified March 14, 2007, 15:11:21]

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