Caribou Coffee Co. thrives with management diversity

By Carol Kleiman

Chicago Tribune

Let's drink to that: Michael J. Coles, chief executive officer of Caribou Coffee Co., based in Minneapolis, is committed to diversity in the workplace. And that's why his workplace is a nationally recognized "brewing" place for women who want to advance.

Caribou Coffee, a chain of coffeehouses with 290 stores, has more than 3,500 employees. There are eight vice presidents, and three of them are female. What's more, two out of nine directors and 17 of 27 district managers are women. And 55 percent of the store managers are female.

When the CEO strongly and consistently endorses nondiscriminatory employment practices such as equal opportunity in hiring and upward mobility on the career ladder, diversity thrives.


And Coles has been at it a long time: Way back in 1986, the National Women's Political Caucus named him "Good Guy of the Year."

Go with the flow: Connie E. Evans could easily be named "Good Woman of the Year."

Evans is president and CEO of Women's Self-Employment Project Ventures Inc. in Chicago. As Evans describes it, her nonprofit organization "helps low- and moderate-income women start businesses."

It does that, and a lot more:

It helps women "achieve a sustainable livelihood through business building and asset development, while serving as a catalyst for wealth creation for all women."

Evans, who is a corporate director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, understands her target audience and knows how to address the needs of "entrepreneurs who are trying to establish micro-organizations."

In fact, in 2002 alone, when the job recession was in full bloom, her organization helped 101 new businesses get started.

A recent recipient is Adia Naba, who received a loan from the group in 2003 to expand her business-- the Alchemy Yoga and Wellness Center in Chicago's Hyde Park.


Naba, who has a master's degree in social work and has done consulting, presented a business plan and was granted a line of credit to jump-start her marketing campaign.

It was just what she needed:

"Things are going pretty good," said Naba. "There are some challenges, some highs and some lows -- but I'm here for the long haul."

The loans are just that: loans. And they have to be repaid.

"Our loans range from $500 to $75,000, and recipients have up to five years to repay them," Evans said.

While the grants are relatively small, they make all the difference to a start-up business and to women without other financial resources.

And that's why Evans and her organization grant them.

Fatherhood in flux: Generation X/Y dads, men who are the sons of baby boomers, know what they want.


And what they want is more time with their kids, according to Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin. The two are co-authors of "Midlife Crisis at 30: How the stakes have changed for a new generation -- and what to do about it."

"In a recent national survey of parenting, one Gen-X/Y father expressed the sum of decades worth of research by demographers, social scientists, academics, writers, educators and psychologists in a sentence," the authors report. And the sentence is: "Among Baby Boomer dads, you were really cool if you were involved with your kids; now, if you're a dad and you're not involved with your kids, you are just lame."

The authors add: "Today, Gen-X/Y fathers are sticking around more, and they are making their presence known ... the number of children being raised in father-absent homes has leveled off in the past decade. And one thing has become clear: Daddies don't 'baby-sit' anymore -- Gen-X/Y men are playing active roles in their children's day-to-day lives."

And by doing that, unlike some fathers in previous generations, they're also reaping a tremendous amount of joy.

Carol Kleiman is the author of "Winning the Job Game: The New Rules for Finding and Keeping the Job You Want." Send e-mail to

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