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By What Measurement Can We Abolish the Diversity Department?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

This reader’s question is in response to last week’s Ask the White Guy article, How Effective Diversity Management Drives Profit.

Question:
How will we know that these “democratizing” efforts have been successful? Once success has been achieved (that is, when it is the norm that opportunity is truly equal), does the need for a “diversity management department” go away?

Answer:
This is an easy question to answer: If you believe all people are created equally, then we’ll know we’re done with needing a diversity department to help with equitable access and talent development by measuring the results. Just a few examples regarding gender:

  • Half (50 percent) of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies will be women. Right now 15 of 500 company CEOs are women—3 percent. Practically speaking, half of America’s college-educated workforce is women, and women have been earning more than half of bachelor’s degrees since 1980.
  • Half (50 percent) of board seats on Fortune 500 companies will be held by women. Right now only 14 percent are.
  • Half of Congress will be women. Currently there are 14 women in the House of Representatives, less than 3 percent. Interestingly, 17 percent of U.S. senators are women.

Aside from gender, I can give you endless examples of disproportionate representation of white men in positions of power in this country to the detriment of anyone not Christian, and/or heterosexual, and/or non-white (or white Hispanic), and/or people with ADA-defined disabilities, etc.

By the way, the United States leads the world in human and civil rights; we’re the best when you look at the entire picture. When you get outside of this country, the discrimination increases and you can see this by measuring the representation of the majority culture in positions of power in every other region I can think of (for example, how many non-Han Chinese people are in positions of power in China? I’d imagine there may be a few, but I’ve never seen one).

Even in the distant future when companies are equitably recruited, talent development is equally effective and positions of power are equitably staffed, there will still be a need for a diversity department. Managing the relationships between all the constituent groups is a profit center; you can reduce workforce costs by enhancing employee satisfaction and engagement, increase the quality of your revenue stream by building better relationships with your customers, and increase innovation by being able to utilize/consider diverse approaches to solving problems and accessing opportunities.

On a national basis, whether you are a Keynesian or Supply-Side economist, the one constant that grows economies is innovation. Our society cannot achieve maximum innovation if broad sectors of its population are sidelined. We shortchange our own GDP by being discriminatory.

Unless you have some secret that I don’t know about, I am quite sure nobody alive today will live to see equity, even in workforce measures—but we can take deep satisfaction of continuing that work and seeing our incremental growth as a society.

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13 Comments

  • I think that until we in America resolve our problems with race and gender, there will always have to be some mecahniism for ensuring affirmative employment and INCLUSION in our society. While it should be logical that more women and people of color will have to be included/”grown”/recruited into our corporate and other structures–if we are to remain or become again competitive, the legitimacy of this rationale is continuously bombarded by ignorance and stupidity on the parts of those who do not understand–or care to understand, the dynamics of maximizing productivity and effectiveness.

  • Well put!

    When you find out thr secret please share it with me. The TIP Lady

  • White Guy, Please do tell!!! This would very helpful in in driving our initiaitve.
    “Aside from gender, I can give you endless examples of disproportionate representation of white men in positions of power in this country to the detriment of anyone not Christian, and/or heterosexual, and/or non-white (or white Hispanic), and/or people with ADA-defined disabilities, etc.”

    Thank you!

  • I always thought the goal of diversity was to provide equal opportunity, without consideration of gender, race, national origina, religion, sexual preference, etc. I suggest the true measure of diversity is when 100 percent of the Fortune 500 companies’s CEOs are the best and brightest, not when they represent a simple percentage of one gender. I would think that their shareholders would agree.

  • … because one day, “diversity” will mean white men.
    It’s not affirmative action, slave reparations, or women’s lib. Diversity means that different backgrounds improve the quality of group ideas, so diversity will always be good to promote and leverage. homogeneous communities are suboptimal, whether all white, all male, all black, or all women.

  • Anonymous

    To the guest re: goal of div…This is where diversity/AA departments are in of themselves diverse. Sometimes, the goals are more complianced based, and are more aggressive in hiring/retaining minorities, women, etc. These are the ones that may reject an applicant if it is a white male…. Other times, the dept is more community driven, so it may list job ads in mediums or areas more visable to minorities, women, etc. but may still have a majority white workforce Sometimes, there maybe a mix of the two. These are just general examples, but I hope you get the point. Just like any idea or “crusade” people will have differeing views on it. The majority in the civil rights arena argue for equal access, while others demand equal representation. Again, as with any cause, the ruination of it is usually caused by its own members. Look at the recent article on this site about background checks. The EEOC is essentially arguing they hurt minority employment, yet, research shows they improve hiring of minorities because you take away the possibility of some bias. To that, I agree fully with you. In any job, the best candidate should get the position, and diversity departments should not push minority hiring for the sake of it, but rather develop processes and procedures that ensure equal access in the talent/resume pool. This will ensure better or equal representation in hiring as long as the company uses statistically proven means (background checks, job history,….) to make the final hire.

  • Anonymous

    My agency measurements in our mission critical job series meet or exceed the relevant civilian labor force for gender. We have pipeline issues to work on and a cultural diversity hill to climb. Our focus is the maintenance of these high levels of achievement, the security of a diverse pool of employement candidates, and the inclusion of people with disabilities. I for one would be happy to find a new job if we fulfilled our diversity mission. Our focus on diversity is to have the access to the unique perspectives that come with a diverse workforce to solve our increasingly complex problems.

  • Anonymous

    “If you believe all people are created equally, then we’ll know we’re done with needing a diversity department to help with equitable access and talent development by measuring the results.”

    And what if I don’t? Let’s not be politically correct. And I’m not trying to put anyone down or flamebait.

    Seriously, what if different groups have different capabilities.

    What do we do then?

  • Beyond the compliance categories of diversity, there are many other diversity dimensions such as geographic, speech, education, rural v. suburban v. urban, etc. etc. Even in a room full of white men, there is great diversity. There will always be a need for a diversity department also because there are continuously new under represented groups on the horizon (i.e. genetically altered v. natural people; GINA; etc.).

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I understand the comment made by a prior poster, “Seriously, what if different groups have different capabilities. What do we do then?” What does that mean? Are capabilities inherent in a race or group of people? Or are capabilities based on education and background? If everyone is given the same opportunities, allowed to participate in the same level and quality of education, then wouldn’t their capabilities be the same? The misconception that certain groups may not be able to perform the same as other groups is why diversity programs are still needed, to ensure that those ANYONE with the appropriate qualifications is afforded the same opportunities as anyone else, no matter their race, gender, or physical abilities.

  • Anonymous

    The reality is that we will always be able to find examples of “disproportionate representation” – even in the far off world of equality that Luke alludes to. This is due to statistical random fluctuations that occur in the world. Rarely in this perfect will would any given office, occupational series, or GS level, have *exact* proportionate representation. Having a statistician come in and talk about statistical significance won’t solve this problem, because there will always be flukey data that produces bizarre outcomes for no underlying reason other than rare but existent random fluctuations. This is a deficiency of the current system: we feel like we have to explain each and every deviation from our perfect world. No wall street analyst would try to explain precisely each and every bounce the price of a stock took throughout a trading day, but that is basically what the premise of this question assumes.

  • Oh pulleeze, do not use a wall street analyst for your example. We all know where they got us today.

  • Anonymous

    One of the best explanations I have ever heard was from one of our Executive Team when he was welcoming the newly minted Inclusion Council and giving them the reason the Executive Team established their group, he ended with, ” … and when we get there, we may find that ‘there’ has moved ….” Truth is, there will always be “insiders” and ‘outsiders” and someone will need to mediate between the two. It’s human nature.

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