Assault on job bias called priority Glass Commission urges steps as it goes out of business

November 24, 1995|By BOSTON GLOBE

A federal commission studying the slow progress of women and minorities in the workplace says breaking the so-called glass ceiling is an economic priority that the nation can no longer afford to ignore.

The 4-year-old Glass Commission, which went out of business at midnight Tuesday as it completed its work, also urged the federal government to strengthen anti-discrimination laws and increase efforts to eliminate internal barriers to the advancement of minorities and women.

The commission also advised American firms to actively support affirmative action and diversity programs.

"While minorities and women have made strides in the last 30 years, and employers increasingly recognize the value of work force diversity, the executive suite is still overwhelmingly a white man's world," the report said. "Discrimination -- the glass ceiling, in particular -- remains another deep line of demarcation between those who prosper and those left behind."

Wednesday's statement came six months after the commission reported that 95 percent of the senior managers of the top Fortune 1,000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of those, 97 percent are white. The commission also found that black men with professional degrees are paid 21 percent less than their white counterparts holding the same degrees in the same job categories. At the same time, only 0.4 percent of all managers are Hispanic, though they make up 8 percent of the nation's work force.

Those findings came on the heels of a push by some U.S. legislators and business leaders to eliminate so-called hiring quotas designed to help minorities and women gain access to jobs and other employment opportunities.

Sen. Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who was instrumental in the commission's formation, was among those who called for an end to affirmative action earlier this year.

Among its recommendations was a call for continued use of affirmative action as a tool. At the same time, the commission stressed that such tools be used to help " 'qualified' individuals have equal access and opportunity to compete based on ability and merit."

The commission also recommended:

* That the government strengthen anti-discrimination laws, collect more detailed race and gender data, ban the double counting of black, Latino and Asian women as so-called double minorities, and regularly disclose diversity data.

* That CEOs and boards of directors set companywide policies actively promoting the removal of artificial barriers to the advancement for women and minorities; that companies use affirmative action as a tool to ensure that all qualified individuals have equal access, and that American firms prepare minorities and women for senior positions by establishing formal mentoring programs.

"Too often, minorities and women find themselves channeled into staff positions that provide little access and visibility to corporate decision-makers, and removed from strategic business decisions," the report said.

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