In the early 1970s, our late Co-Founder, Merlin G. Pope, Jr., was a Ph.D. student at Yale University. Merlin commuted from New Haven, CT to Cincinnati, OH to work as an external consultant at Procter & Gamble while pursuing his doctorate degree. 

At that time, most companies were doing what was required of them by law—i.e., recruiting and hiring Black employees. Like many leaders who were responding to Affirmative Action, the head of  P&G’s Engineering Division asked: “So, how do we make this work after we hire Black engineers?”

It didn’t take long before several visionary Division Leaders realized that they needed to provide some type of racial awareness training for their managers and employees. 

In 1976, Merlin co-founded Behavioral Science Applications, Inc. Shortly thereafter, he created the first business case for diversity & inclusion, which examined racial/ethnic diversity and the average annual productivity increase. His work at P&G contributed to his doctoral dissertation research at Yale, which compared how long it took new-hire White vs Black engineers to be ‘earning their keep plus $1.00.’ Our patented process, Consulting Pairs®, was born from that research.

Bridging The Gender Gap

In the 1970s, Patricia also worked in the engineering division of P&G in Cincinnati. One day, she asked to go to the Green Bay plant because she wanted to see how the paper products were made. For someone in an administrative support role, touring a facility was a highly unusual request. But, as fate would have it, her request was approved.

That trip unleashed something powerful in her.

That curiosity about how things work continued to create new opportunities for Pat year after year. She was promoted into a newly-created position in the Organization Development Department of the Engineering Division. Her focus was creating development programs for women and increasing the representation of Black women in the Division.

Joining Forces

In 1977, Pat and Merlin began seeing each other outside of work and started developing additional content and tools, as well as creating marketing materials and the business systems that would be necessary to ‘scale the business’ beyond one client. By the late 1970s, other Fortune 500 companies outside of Cincinnati began hearing about their unique approach to Affirmative Action, that focused on leveraging diversity to increase productivity. Pat left P&G in 1979, shortly before marrying Merlin in early 1980.

In 1983, they reincorporated as Pope & Associates, Inc. As a passionate believer that diversity is either a tremendous source of strength–or weakness–but never neutral, Merlin dedicated his life to helping others understand the same. With his help, many organizations began to see the link between having a workforce that reflected their diverse customer base, and innovation, productivity and growth.

To date, more than 1 million people across the globe have benefited from Merlin & Pat’s unique bottom-line approach to diversity, inclusion and culture change.

Two Generations, One Important Mission

Merlin and Pat’s first son, Merlin Pope III, joined the company as Vice President in 2018, and became President in 2019. Nearly 15 years in corporate America reinforced his belief that diversity, equity & inclusion in the workplace are vital and that there was, and continues to be, a tremendous opportunity to continue his parents’ legacy.

Today, the CEOs in the United States who are people of color could all fit in a small private jet…at the same time. Additionally, a recent study showed that women occupy less than 25% of C-suite positions. That number has declined in the past few years.

For over 4 decades, we have partnered with organizations to embrace diversity, equity, & inclusion in order to leverage the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Let’s Talk

We are passionate about making a real difference for individuals, for relationships, and for the growth and financial success of your organization. Schedule a complimentary 45-minute consultation call with us to discuss your specific diversity and inclusion training needs.

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