“Companies with a diverse workforce perform better, both in revenue and return on capital employed. However, diversity in itself is not sufficient without inclusion, especially in the petrochemical and refining industry. There must also be an effort to develop, retain and promote individuals so they contribute all their talents to the growth and profitability of the enterprise,” advises S. Shariq Yosufzai, Vice President, Global Diversity, Chevron Corporation.
Why is this industry facing difficulties in attracting diverse talent?
The number of women entering and graduating engineering schools is continuing to decline. In the US, only 16 percent of those enrolled are women, yet they make up 56 percent of all college graduates. It is not a question of women not going into the fields of science, technology or mathematics. They are just not going into engineering. This is a huge problem for the industry. The number of Hispanics in Texas is over 50 percent, but only four percent of engineering graduates are Hispanic. The same is true of African Americans. In the case of Asian Americans, there are a large number of them entering the field but not many reach senior positions. We need to understand why this is.
It is important for the industry to reflect the communities it operates in, to look like its customers and be relevant to them. This all comes back to performance. Heterogeneous teams perform better than homogeneous teams.
Is diversity in itself sufficient?
There are some perceptions about the industry that we must first change. Diversity by itself is not sufficient. We can certainly attract diverse people into our workforce, but unless we develop, retain and promote them, they will not contribute at the maximum level. This is just as much about inclusion as diversity.
Every single metric that a business is judged by, safety, operational excellence, financial performance, return on capital employed, return on shareholder equity and innovation, they are all promoted by diversity and inclusion.
Many companies may believe they are diverse and inclusive, when they are not. In your opinion, what areas do they overlook?
They need to look at data over time. Many organizations say, “Fifty-percent of our staff is women”. This is not enough. They must also understand and measure what the C-suite feeder pool looks like, and not just count the number of women in the board or senior management. Are women de-selecting themselves from power positions that lead to the corner suite? What is happening to minorities? There must be targeted leadership development programs and formal mentorship programs to address these gaps.
Diversity is not about counting heads — it’s about making sure every head counts. Sometimes the cultural aspects of diversity are very well articulated in a vision statement. The question is: Are companies applying the same set of rigorous analyses and statistics to diversity and inclusion, as they do to the rest of the business? Unless they do, it will just be a nice thing to have on a mission statement, rather than an approach that can actually result in tangible improvement.