Companies Ramp up Diversity Efforts

In South Africa, a fast-growing economy, government affirmative action-style programs and a constitution that bans racial and sex discrimination have given diversity a huge boost in the past decade, says Alan Richter, president of QED Consulting in New York and a native South African. "The diversity agenda for businesses is booming," Richter says. "South Africa is the economic superpower of Africa and one of the most diverse countries in the world, and the black middle class -- known as 'black diamonds' -- grew 30 percent last year."

At the U.N. conference, executives on one panel struggled to define the new global diversity. Finally, they laughed and shook their heads at the colossal scope of their mission. "If we succeed, we'll change the world," said Floyd Pitts, senior director of diversity at Hilton Hotels and an African-American. "Just not tomorrow."

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