Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series exploring diversity and inclusion in the workplace to be published over the next few months. If you have a story idea about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, please send leads to WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam at cabitbol@gmail.com.

RALEIGH – In the past few years, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ have become buzzwords in corporate America.

It’s no wonder why, really.

Though women make up around 51 percent of the workforce, and are now more likely than men to be college educated, they remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate sector.

Only 6.2 percent of S&P 500 CEOS are female, and only 8.5 percent of the top 200 S&P companies have African-American, Hispanic/Latino or Asian CEOs, according to a recent PwC report.

Clearly, there’s still much work to be done. But who is heeding the call?

For starters, Lenovo, one of the world’s largest PC companies with headquarters in RTP.

Just last week, on the heels of its first-ever global Diversity and Inclusion report, it committed to company wide goals for achieving 20 percent women – at least – in the executive suites on a global basis by 2020.

They’re not alone. A growing number of companies – both big and small, based out of the Triangle – are taking steps, in their own ways, to increase diversity.

“The imperative for diversity in our business and all businesses has never been clearer,” Lenovo’s CEO Yang Yuanqing summed up in a statement.

Developing talent

Topping the list is drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which has a major presence in RTP.

Among its biggest initiatives: Accelerating Difference for Women, which aims to identify high achievers early in their careers. The program requires nomination by upper-level executives and offers participants support that includes individual and group coaching sessions.

Hundreds of women have taken part since its inception in 2013, allowing GSK to identify and support high achievers early in their careers with the aim of continually bolstering our ranks of women executives, said Sheri Mullen, vice president for GSK’s Immunology and Rare Diseases.

GSK also has an active Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), which is a voluntary association of employees composed of thousands of members across the globe.

In RTP, the WLI is very active with 375 members, offering a development series called Invest In Yourself and a Working Mothers Association (also open to fathers and caregivers), among other networks.

“Ensuring that all employees at GSK reach their fullest potential is essential to our success as a business,” says Sheri Mullen, vice president for GSK’s Immunology and Rare Diseases.

“Most importantly, it is critical for our patients around the world. Diversity at every level of our company makes GSK stronger by fostering innovation and enabling us to better meet the needs of all patients.”

Increasing women on boards

Other national groups like Women In Bio, with chapters active in the Triangle, are prepping women for board appointments.

A few years back, the organization launched its executive-level board certification training program, Boardroom Ready, for women in life sciences.

The five-day course, open to only 20 candidates and taught once a year at George Washington University, promises to give participants a “deep understanding of the commitments, duties, operation and responsibilities of participating on public and private boards.”

“[This] program will ensure that more women are qualified, willing, and proactively seeking Board memberships,” Kristi Sarno, national president of Women In Bio, said in a statement at its launch.

“With only 10 percent of women in board roles, the biotech gap is one of the widest of any industry,” added Adriana Karaboutis, EVP of Technology and Business Solutions and Corporate Affairs at Biogen. “This opportunity is one that we must tackle together if we are to ensure our industry can really benefit from engagement with leaders of all genders and backgrounds.”

A workplace that supports families

Meanwhile, rising startups are also stepping up.

Fast-growing PrecisionHawk, a drone technology firm based in Raleigh, recently rolled out a new parental leave policy that accommodates birth and adoption for both primary and secondary caregivers.

Under its terms, primary caregivers will now receive 12 weeks of leave and secondary caregivers will receive three weeks of leave, fully paid.

“One of the ways we strive to support our team is by building a workplace that supports families,” said Erin Miller, PrecisionHawk’s vice president of Human Resources.

“At PrecisionHawk, we believe happy families make for productive and impactful employees.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt their image, either. And in a market where talent is scarce and hard to find, playing on the “inclusive” card helps.

That hasn’t been lost on PrecisionHawk’s leaders.

“In order to compete in this type of job market, companies have to be innovative with the benefits they offer, and PrecisionHawk wants to be a leader in this category,” said Miller.