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State Farm recognized for workplace diversity
State Farm Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Rust Jr. stands next to Marketing Vice President Pamela K. El and Ian Smith, the diet expert on VH1 “Celebrity Fit Club” who developed the State Farm-sponsored 50 Million Pound Challenge on the cover of Black Enterprise magazine.

BLOOMINGTON - Two State Farm Insurance Cos. executives grace the July cover of Black Enterprise magazine, which honored the insurer for workplace diversity.

On the cover, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Rust Jr. stands next to Marketing Vice President Pamela K. El and Ian Smith, the diet expert on VH1 "Celebrity Fit Club" who developed the State Farm-sponsored 50 Million Pound Challenge.

The national program challenges African Americans to lose weight.

State Farm's sponsorship earned the company the magazine cover, but Black Enterprise also included State Farm in its third annual list of the best 40 companies for diversity and the top 15 companies for marketing to diverse audiences.

Black Enterprise, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. companies, based the list on corporate diversity in senior man-agement, board involvement, employment and supplier contracts.

State Farm stood out with a diverse representation in senior management, said Alfred Edmond Jr., senior vice president and editor-in-chief of the magazine.

"Diversity is a relatively new corporate value. It's really only become a core corporate value in the last 15 (to) 20 years," Edmond said. "We compiled this list in hopes that other companies will look to these companies as role models."

State Farm does not have any minority-hiring quotas, but the company has expanded recruitment efforts, said Laura Haas, assistant vice president of diversity and human resources.

"We're going to hire the most qualified candidate," Haas said. "When it comes to recruiting, we do have an in-creased focus on where we're drawing from."

The company, though, declined to say what percentage of its workforce are women or minorities.

In addition to recruiting, State Farm established an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2002 to centralize the professional development of women and employees of various ethnicities. The office set up several networking and mentoring groups for minorities.

The insurer also looks to do business with diverse suppliers, companies with female or minority ownership.

"The ultimate point is how we meet the needs of a diverse customer base," Haas said.

Other Illinois companies making the top 40 list were Exelon Corp. of Chicago and McDonald's Corp. of Oak Brook.

Allstate Corp. of Northbrook and McDonald's also made the list of top 15 companies for marketing diversity.

Founded in 1970, Black Enterprise reaches 3.9 million readers. The July issue hits newsstands June 26.

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