A culture of workplace diversity ensures that performance and qualifications, rather than membership in a preferred demographic, dictate ascension up the corporate ladder, but also that a broad array of ideas and backgrounds are used to move a company forward. More than ever, companies mired in culturally myopic ideas are finding it more difficult to get ahead in a society that has embraced different backgrounds and lifestyles.

For forward-thinking job seekers looking for somewhere to launch a career, workplace diversity is as important a consideration as many of the typical criteria used to compare career opportunities such as pay, benefits, flexibility and upward mobility. Because more prospective employees than ever are assigning paramount importance to workplace diversity, think tanks and research groups have conducted extensive studies to determine which of the economy's largest employers excel in this area and which are lagging behind.

As of 2018, the following are the companies best known for embracing workplace diversity, as well as a few that still have work to do.

The Best: Cisco Systems

A comprehensive analysis by Calvert Investments of hiring practices, internal and external initiatives to increase diversity, family-friendly benefits, and representation of women and minorities on company gave Cisco Systems a perfect score for its diversity practices. In 2017, Cisco announced the launch of its Diverse Representation Framework (DRF), a system that provides data to help hiring managers find talent in the markets where they do business. Cisco plans to scale DRF with its leaders worldwide. According to Fran Katsoudas, Chief People Officer at Cisco, "This framework is a game-changer for us in identifying and attracting the best talent.”

The Best: Microsoft Corporation

The analysis by Calvert Investments also gave Microsoft Corporation a perfect score for its diversity practices. According to Michelle Simmons, General Manager, Southeast Asia New Markets, Microsoft Asia Pacific, Microsoft is working with schools and teachers to create opportunities for more than 1 million young men and women in Sri Lanka. Coding sessions and hackathons have given them a glimpse of what STEM and a career in technology can offer. Microsoft's board of directors is among the most diverse of any tech company with women and ethnic minorities in six of 14 positions. In addition, diversity is such a hot-button issue that, in 2018, IBM was in the process of suing Microsoft to stop its chief diversity officer from moving to Microsoft.

The Best: Accenture PLC

The analysis gave Accenture PLC a 95% rating for diversity practices. According to the company website, Accenture added more than 1,800 employees of diverse backgrounds in 2017 up from approximately 1,000 in 2016. The company increased the number of women in its workforce to 37%, a 1% increase on the prior year, and a step toward the company's goal of at least 40% women by 2020. Multicultural women make up 17% of the workforce. In addition, approximately 2,300 of employees had a disability, which is 4.5% of the workforce.

Needs Work: Berkshire Hathaway

An incontrovertible argument can be made that Warren Buffett is the most forward-thinking investor of the 20th and 21st centuries. His company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A), however, ranks far from progressive in its commitment to workplace diversity. The Calvert study designated Berkshire Hathaway as the second to worst company in the S&P 100 for workplace diversity. The company explicitly states it does not consider diversity when directors and board members are selected. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2018, four Berkshire businesses hired new CEOs (Dairy Queen, Duracell, Larson-Juhl and Berkshire Hathaway Energy), and all four of those CEOs were men.

Needs Work: Simon Property Group 

The real estate giant Simon Property Group Inc. (SPG) was ranked last in the analysis. The company's lack of commitment to diversity is especially troubling given its influence in an industry where practices such as redlining and predatory lending have put minorities at a disadvantage in the real estate market for decades. Simon treats diversity issues as a compliance matter and does the minimum to avoid running afoul of EEO laws. SPG is opaque with its EEO-1 stats and its hiring practices with regard to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and the company features a glaring lack of diversity in leadership positions.