UPTOWN Professional Sep 27, 2011

Elite Executive: Sylvester Mendoza

Elite Executive: Sylvester Mendoza, Jr.From the time he was a child, Sylvester Mendoza Jr. knew the importance of creating and working in a culturally diverse workplace. Raised by Filipino immigrant parents in San Francisco, he grew up during the civil rights movement, and his postal worker father often talked about being a person of color in the federal workforce. So it’s not surprising that, after he obtained a law degree his career path went from senior director for global strategies at pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough to corporate director for diversity and inclusion and EEO for Northrop Grumman.

“Part of my success has been the ability to understand the culture I’m working in,” Mendoza, now based in Los Angeles, says. “You have to comprehend the commitment level and what works and doesn’t work in an organization.”

Over the years, he has watched the corporate diversity movement evolve from what he described as the affirmative action era of just wanting to get people in the door to one that involves making people feel welcome once they are admitted. “If you don’t have a culture of inclusion, you’ll have issues around lower production and retention,” Mendoza says. “You need a welcoming environment that fosters support for individuals.”

So while widespread corporate challenges provide obstacles along the way, Mendoza’s commitment is unwavering, and he believes that “when we look at why we are continuing to drive diversity—whether it is an upturn or downturn economy—it is because we believe it is pivotal to boosting profitability and fostering innovation.”

— ANDREA WALKER