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Diversity In Action

Sony addresses the changing demographics of its U.S. workers

A day-long program cascaded down from execs to management staff builds a business case for diversity and features online e-learning


Evelin Potts: enhancing employee morale, productivity and engagement.

Evelin Potts: enhancing employee morale, productivity and engagement.

Creating a diverse work environment starts at the top at Sony Electronics, says Evelin Potts, diversity director for the company's U.S. operations. With the support of its COO, Hideki "Dick" Komiyama, Sony Electronics of America is establishing diversity training and affinity groups to address the changing demographics of its U.S. workforce.

"Enhancing employee morale, productivity and engagement is what diversity is all about," Potts declares. "We have diversity awareness training for all our executive team and directors, and they are required to develop their own diversity action plans on an annual basis."

Now the training has been cascaded down to the management level. This year all managers will do the training; next year it will be opened to the entire management staff.

The program focuses on diversity as good business practice, Potts explains. The one-day facilitated program "builds a business case for diversity" and features an online e-learning program.

Participation is mandatory, but nevertheless COO Komiyama goes out of his way to thank every participant. "He sends them a note stressing the importance of the initiative to the organization. It encourages others to get into the program because they know that he's taking a personal interest," Potts says with a smile.

Last fall Potts oversaw the establishment of two affinity groups. "I'm excited about that," she says. One is Women of Action, Vision and Empowerment (WAVE), and the other, for folks with minority or multicultural backgrounds, is Integrating Multicultural Perspectives and Collaborating Together (IMPACT).

The groups share Sony's mission of promoting diversity as good business. Potts notes that "We want them to support diversity recruiting efforts and provide networking and cross-business educational opportunities."

Sony has an ongoing need that runs the gamut of people with engineering backgrounds as well as IT pros. Potts recruits at NACME, SWE, NSBE, SHPE and others; the company is on the board of NACME. "We've also partnered with the National Urban League and with Women Unlimited, an organization fostering mentoring, coaching and development for women in professional positions," Potts says.

Women Unlimited offers programs for new supervisors, managers and executive women. Each segment has a series of courses where individuals can network with women from other companies. Last year Potts hosted an open forum in San Diego, CA, partnering Women Unlimited with Sony.

Potts has big plans for an expanded intra-company diversity program this year. "We'll have speakers talk about other parts of the business and engage in coaching and mentoring support activities. We'll have mentoring circles within the different groups so individuals can mentor each other," she explains with enthusiasm. In addition to Park Ridge, NJ and San Diego, Sony Electronics has employees in San Jose and San Francisco, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Miami and Fort Myers, FL.

Potts notes that Sony management is directly involved with the new networking groups. "Mr Komiyama has agreed to meet with representatives of both of the groups quarterly," she reports.

Bridging language and cultural gaps is another challenge at Sony. "Our workshops include Japanese speakers who can help facilitate," says Potts. For example, a workshop focusing on U.S. legal issues of compliance and affirmative action was translated into running Japanese for execs who might not be completely familiar with U.S. legal requirements. The Japanese managers, Potts says, "told Mr Komiyama that it was a great, great program."

Several years ago Potts began a diversity volunteers initiative at Sony. It features groups of company volunteers across the country staging events celebrating diversity. For example, Asian/Pacific heritage month was celebrated with fashion shows of kimonos and displays of calligraphy. In 2005, Sony's first global volunteer day took place in thirty countries and on six continents.

Potts herself has been honored by the Girl Scouts for partnering with the YWCA to introduce girls to the field of engineering. For Potts, this form of outreach is extremely important. "Girls shy away from engineering, not because they can't do it but because they don't know enough about it," she remarks.


Sony Electronics Inc

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; U.S. HQ, San Diego, CA
Employees: 20,000 in North America
Revenues: (parent company) $65 Billion in 2005
Business: Develops, designs and manufactures electronic equipment


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