When you develop a culture of inclusiveness as Pitney Bowes has, you attract people who feel comfortable in that environment, whose values are reinforced.
Years ago, only a handful of companies took a serious look at diversity and made it a priority. Companies that incorporated diversity initiatives into their strategic planning process early on are now reaping the benefits. Needless to say, these are the companies that are making a difference. These companies had the vision to foresee the future and in so doing they have become corporate diversity leaders—placing them at the top of the list. Such companies also cultivated the potential of all employees years ago, resulting in a diverse workforce today. As a result, they are now well prepared to compete in today's global economy.
Pitney Bowes is one of few companies that took the lead in promoting diversity early on. In fact, Pitney Bowes has been named to several top lists on diversity in the country. Recently, its legal department added another accolade to the company's list of acknowledgements, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association's Diversity 2000 award, which showcases organizations that are implementing innovative programs to increase diversity in the legal profession.
"The legal department's performance against our diversity goals has been exceptional," said Sara Moss, vice president and general counsel, Pitney Bowes Inc. "The amount of diverse talent we have hired, groomed, and promoted places us among the top corporate legal departments in the country. Valuing the unique contributions of each employee helps us sustain our competitive leadership. The MCCA award publicly recognizes our accomplishments."
According to Moss, one critical factor to the success of Pitney Bowes and its legal department in the area of diversity is linking objectives to performance reviews and compensation. Pitney Bowes' functional staff groups, including the legal department, and its business units submit annual diversity strategic plans. Each plan is evaluated for its impact on employees and the company, including the communities served and its business partners. The departments are then measured on results such as the hiring and promotion of women and minorities, as well as qualitative deliverables including employee development and retention.
In the legal department, 55 percent of the staff is female and 27 percent is minority. Of Moss' six direct reports, two are minorities: Robbie E. B. Narcisse, deputy general counsel, corporate and assistant secretary, and Michael E. Melton, deputy general counsel, intellectual property and technology law.
"When you develop a culture of inclusiveness as Pitney Bowes has, you attract people who feel comfortable in that environment, whose values are reinforced. It is significant to potential minority hires that Robbie Narcisse, an African-American woman and Michael Melton, an African- American man, hold important positions in the company's legal department," Moss added.
Moss downplays the fact that she is one of roughly twodozen women general counsel at Fortune 500 companies. "When I was interviewed for the general counsel's job at Pitney Bowes in 1996, I could tell that being a woman was not relevant. They wanted someone who fit the skills they were seeking. I also got a strong sense that it was a good company to work for," she said.
Moving beyond an internal company focus, the legal department's commitment to diversity extends into communities. A key example is its strategic relationship with MCCA.
"Support of advocacy organizations like MCCA demonstrates another cornerstone of our commitment to diversity. It helps us hire outstanding lawyers. MCCA promotes the interests of minority lawyers and keeps the issues facing those lawyers in front of corporate law departments," said Moss.
Pitney Bowes' association with MCCA began nearly five years ago. The organization was still the brainchild of MCCA founder and former executive director Lloyd M. Johnson Jr. In 1996, Johnson, a former San Francisco deputy district attorney, recognized 20 lawyers, including Keith Williamson, then general counsel of Pitney Bowes Financial Services, with the "Pioneer of the Profession" award. Johnson created the award to honor the achievements of minority attorneys working in corporate America.
Johnson worked to extend the awards program's scope to establish a national organization to help foster the careers of minority attorneys. Working with a small group of people, including Williamson, he launched MCCA.
With the endorsement of its Chairman and CEO, Michael J. Critelli, Pitney Bowes provided corporate support to the formation of MCCA, including funding and supplying the expertise needed for the group's incorporation. Williamson took the lead in this process and established MCCA's nonprofit status. The 501(c)(3) status was essential in strengthening MCCA's ability to raise funds, to assist with operational activities ranging from scholarship support to research funding.
"Along with valuable financial and executive support, Pitney Bowes provides a source of diversity best practices from which other organizations can benefit, " said Williamson, who is now president of Pitney Bowes Capital Services. "Pitney Bowes' association with MCCA creates valuable exposure within the minority community that helps recruiting efforts and positions the company as a leader in diversity practices."
Henry O. Hernandez, Jr., executive director, Global Diversity Leadership, added "The awards from advocacy organizations and media are an important validation of Pitney Bowes efforts, but our tangible results demonstrate our real commitment to diversity. The legal department is an outstanding example of what we have accomplished inside the organization and in the community."
"Diversity works at Pitney Bowes because it is inherent in the way we do business and is a core value. We have a long-term commitment to address the needs of an increasingly diverse global marketplace, and the personal involvement of management of all levels. We also recognize the significance diversity plays in the new economy, and the impact it has on our bottom-line," said Hernandez.
From the June 2001 issue of Diversity & The Bar®