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Getting Past the Gap

One reader says diversity in the executive suite depends on diversity in academia, while another says the good-old-boys club "wants to keep companies as white as possible for as long as possible."
CFO Staff, CFO Magazine
July 1, 2007

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The June article "Gap Analysis" correctly links minorities' scarce presence in senior corporate-finance positions to their underrepresentation in college accounting and business programs. The writer also notes that minorities have traditionally had few role models encouraging them to study business.

While Corporate America and universities can't quickly create millions of minority role models in business, they can create many role models in another key spot of high visibility, influence, and impact: the front of the classroom.

Business-school faculties have historically been nearly barren of minorities. Since 1994, The PhD Project has partnered with corporations and academia to change that. Through an innovative mix of strategies, we have nearly tripled the number of minority faculty, from 294 to 858, by marketing the appeal of a career in the professorate.

Your article points corporations toward changing the landscape by supporting, recruiting, and providing scholarships for minority business students. This is true, and worthy, but it's also a zero-sum game: until we expand the pool of minority students, we're all fighting for the same limited supply of talent. By diversifying the front of the classroom, we are diversifying the rest of the classroom — and, in turn, the executive suites of tomorrow.

Bernard J. Milano
President
The PhD Project
Via E-mail


Your article "Gap Analysis" completely reflects the reality of Corporate America today. It is apparent that women are divided into two separate groups: white women and minority women. It is amazing to me that I can walk down the street and see so many different people from so many different cultural backgrounds, and yet when I walk into a boardroom I see only one group strongly represented: white men and women.

There is an insinuation in Corporate America that standards had to be lowered to allow in token minorities. As insulting as that is for those of us who work hard and are as gifted as our white counterparts, it is even more discouraging that the racist thread that has kept us out for so long continues to weave the false notion that we are less than part of the fabric of the workplace.

To say that a comfort level exists between white male and white female co-workers is an understatement. The more accurate commentary would be that the good-old-boys club that has run Corporate America for so long wants to keep companies as white as possible for as long as possible.

The beauty of our country is that in welcoming diverse people, we have enriched our own culture. But I suspect that unless we can get past ethnic background or gender, we will never be able to really see and appreciate true potential.

Maribel Danta
Via E-mail


Another Ultra Heard From

Given that your review seems to target ultraportables ("For Road Warriors, Lightening Strikes Again," InTech, June), I feel I have to comment on the omission of the most relevant Fujitsu model, the Lifebook Q2010.

Having just purchased one, and also two Sony Vaios, I would have to say that the Fujitsu is in a different league entirely. Admittedly this difference is reflected in the price, and the Blu-ray drive is in the docking station/port replicator, rather than in the machine. However, it is an object of great beauty and weighs less than 1,000g. Amazingly, it also has the 3G data card built in so you don't have to carry around another lump of plastic/aluminum from your mobile network provider of choice — you just place the SIMM card under the battery and off you go. Furthermore, it is still shipped with Win XP, rather than Vista, which strangles the performance out of the Vaio.

I would strongly advise that the Q2010 be looked at if you want the best ultraportable on the market.

Reiss Gunson
Via E-mail


Privatization of Water

In response to your article "Water for Profit" (February), I think the privatization of a common resource like the water supply is at odds with the principles of our democratic society. Consider the following quote from Milton Friedman:


"So the question is: Do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money as possible for their stockholders? And my answer to that is that they do not."

Managers of publicly held companies are not rewarded by investors for looking out for the long term — and infrastructure management is all about the long term.

There are other inherent conflicts in private ownership of a public resource. An industry expert states that a company that owns the [water supply] has a virtual monopoly, but how can a monopoly have a market-based approach? Isn't competition a requirement?

I challenge industry proponents of water-supply privatization to provide comparative data that highlights how private companies can operate more efficiently (and thus save taxpayers money) than government-owned and -controlled agencies.

As I write this letter, three workers from the private water company that manages my community's public water are standing outside my building. One is working and two are watching. So much for the greater efficiency of the private sector.

Alan Singer
Via E-mail


Wary of Integration

Even though several service offerings to improve visibility and velocity to supply-chain finance have been around for a long time, the lack of access to basic technology (such as a computer and broadband access) in low-cost countries initially was a key reason for low take-up rates ("Financing the Chain," February). Since computers and broadband Internet access are now omnipresent in all major sourcing countries, such as China, the reason for slow adoption has shifted to our shores: ERP systems historically have ignored cross-border supply-chain finance; hence, third-party vendors have filled the niche. Unfortunately, companies are wary of the costs to integrate these systems with their ERP systems. True open standards are needed to simplify the integration and will increase the adoption of these useful SCF tools.

Anton Mattli
Via E-mail


Clarification:
The September 2005 article "The 411 on 404" listed several CFOs whose resignation closely followed announcements of internal-control material weaknesses. In the case of National RV's former CFO Joseph Hansen, Mr. Hansen's resignation was unrelated to the internal-control issues, most of which dated from a period before he joined the company. Instead, the resignation was for personal reasons alone.


Correction:
In our May article "The Departed" (Grapevine), we incorrectly identified David Cosper's departure date from Ford Motor Credit Co. It was in March 2006, not 2007.




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