Promoting Diversity - The American Express Way

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB083
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 1981-2006
Pub. Date : 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : American Express Company
Industry : Diversified
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"We value diversity and are proud of the progress we have made in this area. Yet experience has taught us not to become complacent. We will continue our efforts to create the type of environment that will help us attract and retain a diverse workforce."

- Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, in 2003.1

"Building and sustaining a highly committed, talented and diverse workforce is a key priority for our company. We believe our diversity makes us stronger and positions us to be more competitive in the marketplace."

- Ursula Fairbairn, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Quality, at American Express, in 2004.2


In January 2006, the American Express Company (AmEx) was featured on Fortune's 3 list of the '100 Best Companies to Work for' in America. AmEx was ranked ninth among large companies, and 37th in the overall ranking of the list of the best employers in the US. AmEx had been one of the regulars on this list in the early 2000s, and the company stood ninth in the overall ranking the previous year as well.

Fortune said AmEx's diversity initiatives, especially its policies related to women employees and minorities, made the company one of the best places to work for in the US. AmEx's commitment to minorities was also saluted by Black Enterprise, a magazine committed to the business and consumer issues of the African-American community, in July 2005.

The magazine included AmEx in its '30 Best Companies for Diversity' list. The 30 best companies were selected after the editors of the magazine conducted a detailed survey of more than 1,000 publicly traded American companies and 50 global companies with significant operations in the US.

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Companies which showed a significant representation of African Americans and other ethnic minorities in four key areas - corporate procurement, corporate boards, senior management, and the total workforce - were included in the list.

AmEx was also appreciated by other mainstream magazines as well as those catering to minority groups and special interests such as Hispanic Business and Working Mother, for its diversity related policies (Refer Exhibit I for a list of the awards AmEx received in 2006 and 2005).

In the 1990s, diversity issues came to the fore in corporate America. Not only had a large number of women and minorities entered the workforce, but markets had also rapidly expanded beyond national boundaries, compelling companies to adapt their operations to diverse cultures and societies. In light of these developments, analysts suggested that for companies to continue growing, they would have to take full advantage of all the human resources and intellectual capital available to them.

Promoting Diversity - The American Express Way - Next Page>>

1] Annie Finnigan, "Leading from the Top: American Express," Working Mother, June 2003.

2] "American Express recognized as Leading Company for Women of Color by Working Mother Magazine," May 11, 2004,

3] A prominent business magazine.


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