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Diversity In Action

Hewlett-Packard goes global with diversity

Long a pacesetter for diversity in U.S. technology, the company is broadening its efforts to achieve diversity in its worldwide locations

HP's Sid Reel: "A good way of always staying connected."

HP's Sid Reel: "A good way of always staying connected."

At the annual Griot event put on by some of HP's fifty resource groups.

At the annual Griot event put on by some of HP's fifty resource groups.

From its base in Palo Alto, CA, HP has long been a pacesetter for diversity in the technology industry. Now the company is broadening its efforts to achieve diversity worldwide.

"We are a global company, with employees in practically every region of the world," says Sid Reel, VP of global inclusion and diversity. "We do as much as we can to cover many dimensions of diversity and be sure we're implementing programs that work locally in each of the countries.

"We truly believe that diversity is a competitive advantage for us. We have seen that it contributes to our ability to attract new employees."

HP coordinates its program with a mix of decentralized and centralized responsibilities. "That's a good way of always staying connected," Reel says.

"We consider ourselves pioneers in how our diversity organization is structured. Diversity is a well-coordinated effort and is really being woven into the fabric of the company."

Reel has been with HP since 1995. She oversees many aspects of the company's diversity recruiting and retention efforts. HP has undergone major changes in recent months, including the high-profile exit of its CEO, but its focus on diversity remains steady.

"It's a commitment," Reel says.

HP is, of course, a leading producer of printers, scanners, disk and storage systems, PCs and computer servers as well as a variety of IT services, and cherishes the techies that help make it all happen.

Reel says HP is filling needs as they arise for positions like software design engineers, IT consultants, business planners, sales and more. "Everything we're doing in the hiring arena is strategic and based on business needs," she says.

The increased global focus doesn't mean a radical departure from the way the company has approached its diversity efforts, but it has meant an expansion of those efforts. HP has some fifty employee resource groups now, and the number outside the U.S. has grown considerably. "We have them in every region now," Reel says.

The company funds the groups' efforts in conducting professional development activities and running communications-focused and networking events with other employees. "It has really helped increase morale."

The resource groups tap into a central diversity leadership council with delegates from each business unit's own diversity action council. The two levels, Reel says, are designed to exchange resources and ideas.

The company's six-year-old focused development program is among HP's prime diversity efforts. It's a year-long program for high-potential women and people of color, featuring mentoring and a chance to work on an important business project. "They get 360-degree feedback," Reel says. So far some 160 diverse employees have been through the program. About half the grads have either been promoted or have seen a significant increase in their responsibilities, she notes.

The company's employee support infrastructure is constantly evolving, Reel says. She points to the recent shift from "work/life balance" to "work/life navigation" programs. The idea here is to help employees find resources like childcare and flexible work schedules.

Another important program is the "diversity dialogue sessions" which Reel helped to pioneer. They grew out of online sessions about diversity and work/life issues that HP's PC group originally developed.

HP helps sponsor several tech society conferences, NSBE and BDPA among them. It has participated in events for people with disabilities, and recently sponsored the Simmons School of Management leadership conference in Boston, MA and the Professional BusinessWomen of California conference in San Francisco, CA.

Several employee groups contribute to career fairs for college and high school students. In the San Francisco Bay Area the company has long participated in an African American students day program, which brings high school kids to the company to learn about new technology and future job opportunities.


Hewlett-Packard Company

Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA
Employees: 151,000
Revenues: $79.9 billion (FY 2004)
Business: IT products and services for businesses and consumers


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