Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When majority member sits on minority panel

Dear Diversity Diva: I’m a white guy who sits on the diversity committee where I work. Maybe I’m just naive, but my company seems pretty diverse to me, so how do we know when we’ve achieved diversity? — Making Progress

Dear Making Progress: That’s a great question. And depending on whom you ask, you’ll get several different answers.
Ultimately, I think the answer anyone gives will be based on the view from their seat. For example, if you’re a member of a racial minority, you’re going to be painfully aware of how few members of minority racial groups, particularly your own, work with you. On the other hand, if you’re in the majority racial group for your workplace, then you may tend to view the minority employees that you do have as the sign of great strides toward diversity.
Additionally, diversity is about leadership. So, if all your leaders are monopolized by one group, even if the working core is “diverse,” that still may not be much of an achievement.
However, diversity isn’t just about numbers. If it were, then it would be an easy number to achieve — you would get a demographic breakdown of the community you live in and just make sure you had the proportionate number in your organization.
No, diversity also is about treatment of the different groups within an organization. That’s one of the reasons most diversity initiatives in recent years have been renamed “diversity and inclusion.”
While some write that off as just words and another stab at political correctness, words do mean something. Inclusion means that a company or organization aims to make sure the workplace doesn’t leave anyone out.
Therefore, I don’t think that diversity is ever something that an organization achieves. Rather, it’s a mandate to keep fairness and equity as an objective that is a continual process of progress and not just a single, final achievement.

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