One doesn’t often associate hamburger joints with a strident diversity posture, but, in fact, McDonald’s always has embraced diversity. As a benchmark organization in the diversity space, McDonald’s seeks to engage the whole person and allow each employee to bring his/her whole selves to work, striving to create an inclusive environment on both sides of the counter. In fact, McDonald’s has moved beyond diversity as a corporation to inclusion to intercultural management. It believes that any company seeking to serve a diverse customer base across the United States and globally must reflect that same diversity in the restaurants meeting customers face to face and throughout the organization where products and services are designed with the distinct wants and needs of customers in mind. Embracing and empowering a diverse workforce has been a part of the McDonald’s culture for decades, dating to the mid-1970s when then-CEO Fred Turner developed an initial diversity framework. In 1980, the company hired its first official head of diversity. Today, it is a business imperative. In the worldwide marketplace, “diversity” denotes a very different meaning from place to place, leading McDonald’s in 2006 to push gender diversity as a global priority through its Global Women’s Initiative to recognize and raise awareness of the significant contributions that women are making to the corporation and to advance and facilitate a culture where women have the most opportunity to succeed and grow. “Diversity is a journey we decide to take,” says Pat Harris, McDonald’s global chief diversity officer. “It’s continuous. The benefits for our organization are immense and incorporated in our business goals. Everyone has ownership and understands that diversity is a business imperative that contributes to the bottom line.”
Consistent with its corporate culture, McDonald’s provides a framework for diversity success, encompassing leadership support, education and training and networking. Through a network of corporate employee groups, such as the McDonald’s African-American Council, Women’s Leadership Network, McDonald’s Gay, Lesbian, and Allies Network, Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Employee Network, and National Hispanic Employee Business Network, the company is able to address the different needs and perspectives of each of its various geographies and demographics. The Women’s Leadership Network in the United States, for instance, has been in existence for more than 20 years and serves as a foundation, role model and support system for individuals. The core of McDonald’s education framework is interactive, employee-led workshops designed to practice the skills and behaviors that cultivate effective work habits and lead people in an inclusive, diverse workforce. Key for McDonalds is its employees’ ability to engage in honest dialogue and education to understand people different from themselves.