October 15, 2010 | last updated May 29, 2012 10:57 pm
DIVERSITY 2010 AWARDS -- Winner: Policy/Advocacy-Individual

Realize The Market Value of Diversity Starts At The Top

Whether it's advising a Fortune 100 company reeling from a major employment discrimination crisis or one wanting to position itself for success in a global market, Kathleen Kappy Lundquist has become an influential voice in the dialogue about diversity.

The nationally recognized organizational psychologist says the first step to establishing and sustaining an ethnically diverse work force is:

"Senior Executive Commitment .... The other (step) is weaving diversity into the business case of the organization - understanding why diversity is important to our success as a business,'' said Lundquist, CEO of APTMetrics Inc., a Darien human resources consulting firm. "And that case can be pretty credibly made, particularly when you are talking about consumer products.''

Another aspect to emphasize about a diverse work force, she said, is the value of having diverse perspectives in the room when brainstorming solutions to increase market share.

Ultimately, says Lundquist, the most effective strategy for holding corporate leaders accountable for their commitment to "diversity" on corporate mission statements is a method for measuring success.

"Not just how many people you hired, but what kind of advantage are we taking of this wealth of talent and this diversity of talent in building a more effective organization,'' said Lundquist, 56.

The widowed mother of a 15-year-old son was born in Bronxville, N.Y. and grew up middle class in Westchester County.

Lundquist's 15-year-old firm has found a niche helping major companies such as General Electric, UBS, Xerox, Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola, IBM, Microsoft and Google stay competitive in a global market. It's all about establishing a work culture that embraces cultures and recognizes diversity as business imperative.

Her business is brisk, with revenues growing at 15 percent to 20 percent annually and earning $10 million to $15 million a year. Lundquist said 40 percent of her senior management team are women. People of color make up about 15 percent of her 60-member staff, many of whom are organizational psychologists.

"If you look at the changing demographics of the workplace, you are going to have to accept people who look different from yourself, because there are so many people who are people of color or women in the workplace than there used to be'' Lundquist said. "It's getting increasingly difficult to get the work done without understanding the value of those diverse perspectives.''

In 2001, Lundquist was one of two court-appointed experts whose role was to advise a task force overseeing Coca Cola's compliance with a major employment discrimination lawsuit settlement.

The experience managing and monitoring the Coca Cola settlement was a highlight of Lundquist's 30-year career in human services.

"It gave me the opportunity to spend a substantial amount of time in a single organization as an outsider," Lundquist said. "And to work with them across the board on all of their human resources processes."

Her focus on senior management commitment and standards to measure progress are the hallmarks of her business and what she passes on to clients.

"Kathleen has a very keen analytical mind a great sense of the issues around diversity and inclusion,'' said Kerry Piercy, managing director of diversity with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "She has deep experience in her field of expertise and she brings that to bear in a very practical way in addressing business issues. She's a great thought partner and has really helped us with constructive solutions.''

Lundquist sees her son Brian and his peers as evidence that a new generation will be far more accepting and respectful of others who don't look like them.

"To them,'' she said, "race and ethnicity is not something that differentiates you in a negative way. It's almost cooler if you come from a more diverse background.''

Certainly, Lundquist advocates, it makes for a more productive workplace.

Position: Chief Executive Officer

Company: APTMetrics Inc.

Location: Darien Category: Policy/advocacy (Individual)

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