Sexual Orientations and Diverse Backgrounds

Question A

The PhD Project: Increasing Diversity through Holistic Means 

As their proportions in the workforce increase, the lower educational levels among Latinos, Blacks, and Native Americans compared to those of non-Hispanic Whites are an important diversity concern. The PhD Project is an organization designed to improve workforce diversity by improving the diversity of faculty at business schools by attracting underrepresented minorities to doctoral programs. The rationale for this approach was that having more diversity at the front of the classroom would increase the amount of diversity among students in the classroom. In 1994, the PhD Project estimated that fewer than 300 of the 22,000 business school faculty in the United States were from underrepresented minority groups. With the help of the PhD Project, the number of Latinos, Blacks, and Native Americans on certain business school faculties increased from 294 to nearly 1,500 between 1994 and 2018. PhD Project alumni are now represented among university deans and presidents.

Quotable: “It was because of the PhD Project that I even had the inkling I could do this.”
Dr. Miles Davis, President of Linfield College

The PhD Project believes that increasing the diversity of business school faculty will:

  • encourage more underrepresented minorities to pursue business degrees;
  • improve the performance and completion rate of underrepresented minorities by providing role models and more natural mentors; and
  • better prepare all business students for today’s multicultural society and work environment.

Recognizing the importance of diversity to organizational success, many universities and well-known corporations have joined in supporting the PhD Project. Sponsors include PhD Project founder KPMG Foundation, the Graduate Management Admission Council, Citigroup Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Daimler/Chrysler Corporation Fund, GE Foundation, Abbott Labs, JP Morgan Chase, Hewlett-Packard, and numerous other companies. These sponsors believe that participating in the PhD Project signals to its employees and to universities commitment to diversity in the workforce.

The PhD Project provides peer support and assists selected students in obtaining scholarships and funding to obtain a PhD. Doctoral students involved in the PhD Project have higher rates of completion of their degrees and are more likely to work in academic positions than other students.

Questions to Consider:

  1. The PhD Project estimates that, on average, fewer than one Black, Latino, or Native American business faculty member exists at universities in the United States. If you are a university student or have studied at that level, how many Black, Latino, or Native American faculty do/did you have? Estimate or investigate the actual proportion of Blacks, Latinos, or Native Americans who are faculty at a university (that is not a historically Black university) with which you are familiar.
  2. What are the benefits for White students and students of color of having faculty members from diverse backgrounds?
  3. The PhD Project assumes that having more faculty of color will increase the probability that students of color will attend and complete college, reducing the education gap among Whites and Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans. Investigate the changes in college completion rates for these groups between 1995 and the present.

Source:, accessed 1/16/2021.

Question B

Phoenix Suns and Sports Magic Sex Discrimination Settlement: A Newspaper Advertisement Seeks “Male” Employees
More than fifty years after sex discrimination was prohibited by law, some companies continue to practice overt discrimination. In a blatantly discriminatory newspaper ad that was published in Phoenix-area newspapers, the Phoenix Suns professional basketball team and Sports Magic Team sought “males with athletic ability and talent” for half-time and community performances by the “Zoo Crew.” The Suns are part of the National Basketball Association, and Sports Magic Team is a firm that organizes the Suns’ half-time entertainment and promotions by the Zoo Crew.

Prior to the Suns’ and Sports Magic’s decision to seek only men for the positions, Kathryn Tomlinson had worked as a member of the Zoo Crew, performing acrobatics and other tricks during games, attending community events, and interacting with the public during basketball season. After the Phoenix Suns’ and Sports Magic decision to hire only men, Tomlinson and another woman took their discrimination claim to the EEOC, which took the case. The Phoenix Suns and Sports Magic agreed to pay over $100,000 to settle the discrimination charges. In addition to the monetary settlement, the Phoenix Suns also agreed to strengthen policies prohibiting sex discrimination, to train personnel, to establish safeguards to ensure discriminatory advertisements were not disseminated in the future, and to apologize to Tomlinson.

Requirements for a particular sex may be legitimate when sex is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Assumptions about physical abilities or customer preferences for a certain sex do not qualify as BFOQs.

Questions to Consider
1.  Is it possible that the organizations involved in this case were unaware of legislation prohibiting sex discrimination? Do you think they considered that their actions might be illegal?

2.  What potential benefits might the Suns and Sports Magic have gained by seeking “people” (rather than males) with athletic ability and talent as members of the Zoo Crew?

3.  How do the attributes of cheerleaders for professional sports teams differ from those of the Zoo Crew? Is requiring cheerleaders to be women discriminatory? Why or why not? What, if any, benefits might follow from having male and female cheerleaders for professional sports teams?

Source: “EEOC Resolves Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against NBA’s Phoenix Suns and Sports Magic for $104,500.”, accessed 1/29/2021.

Questions C

Hewlett-Packard: A History of Progressive Policies Yet Continued Charges of Discrimination

The Hewlett-Packard website lists top five reasons that diversity and inclusion (D&I) matters as that it: drives business, is important to our partners, fuels innovation, improves the communities we work and live in, and attracts and retains the best employees.* Some of the inclusive practices that HP implemented to support its goals are a nondiscrimination policy, electronic job posting, harassment-free work environment, domestic partner benefits, employee network groups, flexible work hours, and a safe and pleasant work environment. According to the company, “Diversity includes but is not limited to gender, color, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, pregnancy, covered veteran status, protected genetic information, and political affiliation—as well as education, experiences, perspectives, and culture.”

In addition to including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in its nondiscrimination policy, HP began offering same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partner benefits to its employees in 1997. HP was clearly a leader in offering such benefits. Offering benefits to domestic partners was said to be part of “HP’s ongoing efforts to create an inclusive environment,” which also enhances HP’s ability to attract and retain top talent.*

Despite having long had comprehensive nondiscrimination policies, HP has experienced allegations of discrimination from members of multiple groups, including women, African Americans, and older workers. For example, in 2020, HP and HP Enterprise (HPE) agreed to pay $1.5 million to resolve claims that systemic pay discrimination affected nearly 400 women.* HPE said it disagreed with the allegations “but have settled in the interest of putting this matter behind us,” and that it is “committed to unconditional inclusion, including pay equity regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.” In another case against HP and HPE, former employees alleged their replacement by younger hires was age discrimination.*

Questions to Consider
1.   Why do you think that HP was a leader in including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in offering benefits to same-sex partners as well as to same-sex partners?

2.   What kinds of things might explain the discrimination issues that were alleged, given the existence of HP’s stated nondiscrimination policies and long history of such policies? What else should be done within HP to avoid issues such as this?

3.  Explain relationships between statements disagreeing with allegations, in spite of settlements, and improvement efforts.

Sources:; Hewlett-Packard Co.—Domestic Partner Benefits Program.

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