Improving Diversity in the Leadership Research Paper

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As the company's Web site points out, "We recognize our continued success depends on our ability to attract, develop and retain a highly competent workforce and on the creative, effective and productive use of human resources. Therefore, Continental is committed to a work environment that provides equal employment opportunity" (Diversity and inclusion, 2010, para. 30). The company's stated diversity policy is as follows:

1. Continental affords equal opportunity for employment to all qualified individuals, regardless of age, citizenship, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or veteran status.

2. Continental makes all personnel decisions, such as compensation, benefits, transfers, layoffs, returns from layoff, opportunities for company-sponsored training, education, and other programs without regard to age, citizenship, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or veteran status.

3. As part of its continued commitment to equal employment opportunity, Continental has affirmative action programs for women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and eligible veterans. These plans put into practice our policy of hiring and promoting individuals based on ability and without regard to characteristics that have no bearing on the execution of job responsibilities (Diversity and inclusion, 2010, para. 3).

In addition, Continental sponsors the following diversity promotion and employee training programs:

1. Continental Airlines Diversity Council

2. Supplier Diversity Program

3. Diversity Training

4. Diversity Awareness Events

5. Diversity & Inclusion Training: "Creating a Winning Environment"

6. Anti-Harassment Training: "Doing Your Part" (Diversity fact sheet, 2010).

The company's about-face concerning diversity since 2002 has included sponsoring various so-called "diversity awareness events," and the Continental Management Association (CMA), a volunteer-based group of Continental managers, has sponsored annual diversity awareness events for of its employees each month including the following:

1. February: Black History Month

2. March: Women's Leadership / Women Heritage Month

3. May: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

4. June: Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

5. September: Hispanic Heritage Month

6. October: Diversity Awareness Month

7. November: Native American Heritage Month

8. The CMA also provides conversational foreign language classes for Continental employees (Diversity fact sheet, 2010).

Current Status of Minority Employment at Continental Airlines

Today, about 19,000 employees at Continental are minorities, with females accounting for 46% of the workforce in the United States (Diversity fact sheet, 2010). As of July 2008, Continental's active minority workforce in the United States consisted of the percentages shown in Table 1 and illustrated in Figure 1 below.

Table 1

Continental Airline Domestic Active Minority Workforce (as of July 2008)


Percentage of Workforce







Source: Based on data in Diversity fact sheet, 2010

Figure 1. Continental Airline Domestic Active Minority Workforce (as of July 2008)

Source: Based on data in Diversity fact sheet, 2010

Without providing any specific statistics in support of its claims, Continental states that, "Minorities and women occupy numerous management positions at Continental" (Diversity fact sheet, 2010, para. 4). Despite these foregoing initiatives and the shift in corporate culture since 2002, though, Continental's top leadership team remains highly male-dominated, with just six of the 33 members (or 18%) of the senior management being women (based on the published names of its top leadership team) (CO facts, 2010) and just one (or .3%) being Hispanic (based on a report in the company's diversity fact sheet. The company appears to be serious about changing these miserable statistics, though, and states that it actively seeks out potential minority candidates for leadership positions through its sponsorship of the Black MBAs and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs; in addition, the company points out that it collaborates with the Organization of Black Airline Pilots and Women in Aviation as part of its ongoing recruitment process for minorities (Diversity fact sheet, 2010).

The company is also affiliated with a number of diversity-related organizations including being the official airline for: (a) the United Black Fund, (b) the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, (c) the Asia Society of Texas, (d) the National Association of Hispanic Publications and (e) the March of Dimes National Ambassador, among others (Diversity fact sheet, 2010). Finally, the company's diversity program even extends to the clients it serves by offering all of its online and onboard services in ways that take into account their language and cultural preferences (Diversity fact sheet, 2010).


The research showed that at Continental Airlines, diversity is the name of the game whether the Old Guard likes it or not. In contrast to Continental's more limited offerings during the closing decades of the 20th century, the company currently competes in 150 different countries and has 45,000 employees with almost half of these being women and an increasing percentage being minorities, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans. The research also showed that Continental has launched a number of initiatives in recent years to promote diversity within its ranks, with many of these being high-profile and expensive enterprises. While the company continues to earn award after award for its progressive employment practices, the paucity of minority and female members on the company's top leadership team suggests that further scrutiny of the effectiveness of these practices is warranted, and opportunities for improving minority representation in top management should be identified and pursued.

Annotated Bibliography

Burke, R.J. & Cooper, C.L. (2005). Reinventing human resources management: Challenges and new directions. London: Routledge.

Authors provide an overview of the recent HR initiatives that have been shown to improve organizational performance and examine how practitioners need to reevaluate their approaches in order to satisfy future demands. Of particular interest was the guidance concerning the need to ensure that diversity management practices are in place and that these initiatives are not simply relabeled affirmative action programs but are rather specifically targeted at recruiting and retaining qualified minority candidates.

Career opportunities. (2010). Continental Airlines. Retrieved from http://www.continental.


This Web site features position listing for all available jobs at Continental and describes some of the company's employment policies and practices as well as the benefits that are available to Continental employees. This page also includes a link to the company's

"diversity and inclusion" information which is discussed further below.

CO facts: A quarterly digest of states & facts. (2010, 2nd quarter). Continental Airlines. Retrieved from


This publication is a compilation of recent statistical and factual information concerning Continental, including recently launched new routes, passenger information, recent awards earned by the company, so-called "green" initiatives implemented by Continental, and other press release-type material.

Diversity and inclusion. (2010). Continental Airlines. Retrieved from http://www.continental.


Accessed through a link from the company's main Career Opportunities Web page (see above), this page provides an overview of Continental's corporate philosophy concerning the importance of a diverse workforce as well as Continental's official policy concerning equal employment opportunities for all. Finally, a listing of the company's diversity-

related programs is provided.

Diversity fact sheet. (2010). Continental Airlines. Retrieved from / web/en-U.S./content/company/globalcitizenship/diversityfactsheet.aspx.

Accessed through a link from the company's "Diversity and inclusion" Web page, this fact sheet reiterates the company's philosophy and official policy concerning the importance of a diverse workforce and cites annual diversity-related events sponsored by Continental. This page also provides current minority employment information.

Martocchio, J.J. (2008). Strategic compensation: A human resource management approach.

New York: McGraw-Hill.

Author presents a comprehensive overview basic, strategic and tactical compensation concepts and practices and how human resource practitioners can effectively administer a compensation program to help achieve organizational goals. Author examines merit pay and other pay-for-performance methods as well as methods for evaluating jobs to ensure pay rates are commensurate with responsibilities. Author also discusses legal issues involved in promoting diversity in the American workplace.

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Authors present the results of a survey of employment practices in four countries that highlight the ongoing practice of age discrimination and how it affects workers age 40

years and over who suffer from several misperceptions concerning their effectiveness as they grow older. The results of the study showed that age discrimination remains

prevalent in the U.S. And Turkey, but is less pronounced in Jamaica and Afghanistan.

Pyburn, K.M., Jr., Ployhart, R.E. & Kravitz, D.A. (2008). The diversity-validity dilemma:

Overview and legal context. Personnel Psychology, 61(1), 143-144.

Authors review the results of recent Supreme Court decisions to illustrate the need to balance recruiting the most qualified candidates for a position with the ethical, social and business requirements to ensure a diverse workforce. Authors provide useful examples of how companies can discriminate against some employees, in some cases without even knowing it or intending to, and cites hiring quotas as an example of practices that may not violate a law, but which require careful scrutiny and judicious application in order to satisfy the foregoing requirements.

Rhode, D.L. (2007). The subtle side of sexism. Columbia Journal…

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