Woman guides clients on affirmative action rules

February 03, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

Dawn Hyde has made a second career out of helping companies with federal contracts and those that are federally insured meet affirmative-action hiring rules.

A former personnel officer at Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co., she quit 10 years ago to launch Columbia-based Berkshire Associates Inc., an affirmative-action consulting firm.

A decade later, the company boasts about 60 clients looking for advice on meeting federal regulations on the hiring and promotion of women, minorities and the disabled.

"The demographics of the country are changing rapidly. The economy will have a lot more minority workers and consumers," says Mrs. Hyde. "Companies are going to have to have as much diversity as possible so they can capitalize on these new markets. If they don't, someone else will."

Although interest in affirmative-action programs slipped during the 1980s because of economic and political forces, Mrs. Hyde says, that seems to be changing, thanks to a healthier economy.

"The recession really slowed the recruiting of women and minorities," says Mrs. Hyde.

But, even though companies have begun hiring again, "they haven't been doing the recruiting [of women and minorities] that they should be," she said.

That's why Ms. Hyde has organized a seminar entitled "Developing a diverse work force through effective action oriented programs," scheduled for Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"My hope is that a seminar like this will help companies think about getting back on track again," she said.

The 8 a.m. seminar will include a discussion by speakers such as Ted Habarth, executive assistant for special development programs at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, and Ola Allsup, the affirmative action programs manager at Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Linthicum.

While working as a personnel officer at Mercantile, Ms. Hyde developed an easier way to track hiring and promotions to ensure compliance with federal equal-opportunity regulations.

Believing that other federally insured institutions and federal contractors would be interested in such a system, Ms. Hyde quit the bank to establish her consulting business.

Her client list today includes First National Bank; Bata Shoe Co., a military boot maker near Aberdeen; and Gallaudet University in Washington.

Mrs. Hyde's father, Donald Stauffer, a retired mechanical engineer, developed the firm's computer software program, which analyzes data on a client's work force and compares it with the averages in the client's industry.

Berkshire reviews the data and then identifies areas that may need improvement.

The company's other services include drafting affirmative-action plans, helping personnel departments improve record keeping and guiding clients through audits by federal regulators.

Compliance with federal equal opportunity regulations can be daunting for firms with federal contracts and those that are federally insured.

There's a web of statistical information that has to be culled and analyzed annually to determine if a company's hiring, promotions and training programs reflect the available employee pool in that company's region.

And, for companies found to be in violation of the federal regulations, back-pay settlements can be expensive, Ms. Hyde said.

"We stand nothing to lose by being straight with where a company needs to make improvements," said Mrs. Hyde.

"Someone working in the personnel office may have to be a bit cautious with what they say."

While Berkshire has focused on affirmative action in hiring, Mrs. Hyde also sees an emerging opportunity in advising companies on the so-called "glass ceiling," the invisible barriers thought to block women and minorities from advancing into management jobs.

The 21-member federal Glass Ceiling Commission, appointed in 1991, plans 40 audits of companies across the county for a report it plans to present to Congress in 1995. Berkshire plans a seminar on the issue March 16, featuring Joyce D. Miller, executive director of the Glass Ceiling Commission.

"There's a lot of anxiety about who the commission will audit and what exactly they will be looking for," said Mrs. Hyde. "We decided to organize this seminar to, hopefully, answer some of those questions."

Mrs. Hyde said she hopes the seminars will make corporate executives understand the economic importance of affirmative action.

"The demographics of the country are changing rapidly," says NTC Mrs. Hyde. "The economy will have a lot more minority workers and consumers."

"Companies are going to have to have as much diversity as possible so they can capitalize on these new markets. If they don't, someone else will."

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