Diversity Management Is Neither Conservative Nor Liberal

The Google controversy is being cast as liberal versus conservative; it’s neither.

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Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 17 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

In the recent Google controversy, Damore, the young man who wrote the 10-page memo that got him fired, has cast his firing as being liberal (Google) versus conservative (Damore).

It’s neither. The media, especially the “conservative” media, is missing the point. Google exists to provide return on equity to its shareholders. Money doesn’t care about “liberal” or “conservative.” It does care about “disruptive.” If the management team charts a course, arguing against it is disruptive. These days, if you put anti-work culture material on your Facebook page, you are disruptive at work because the people you work with will certainly share the news.

New entrants to the labor market are almost twice as diverse as retiring boomers. There is a 22 percentage point difference for women alone (more, if you include unemployment differences) — which is not surprising, as women labor participation rate went up 50 percent over the last 50 years, and more than half of four-year college degrees have been earned by women since the late 1980s.

So, whether you are designing products to be consumed by the workforce or people to employ, diversity management is a commonsense strategic necessity.

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Top leaders at the company demonstrated their own worst practices by hiding behind a statement from their brand new head of diversity, who has only been on the job for a couple of weeks.

In the case of Google, its self-reported workforce demographics show yawning gaps for everyone but white and Asian men. Nobody can deny Google’s business success — but recognizing that talent gaps are liabilities, Google, ignoring lessons learned by more progressive companies, charted its own course toward diversity management, which hit an iceberg in the past week.

In my opinion, the CEO badly fumbled. Their brand new chief diversity officer was thrust into the spotlight to respond — the CEO responded days later, fired Damore and canceled their diversity summit (which was a bad idea to begin with; they were not thought out enough to be ready).

Hopes, dreams and aspirations are wonderful, but if I were Google’s CEO, I would be ready to answer a key question: Why aren’t there more women at Google? Why haven’t their self-reported numbers significantly improved? Why has Google been passive?

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CEO Sundar Pichai said “much of what was in” misogynistic memo from engineer “is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority … disagree,” but said language “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” was “not OK.” The employee reportedly has been fired.

There is a problem. Although attaining almost 60 percent of four-year degrees, women shy away from engineering in college. Only 16 percent of computer science engineering degrees are earned by women.

However, just like there is a 20 percentage point difference between women in top management at Google versus the DiversityInc Top 10, some colleges are doing far better at attracting women to engineering. For example, at MIT, Women earn 51 percent of engineering degrees and 32 percent of computer engineering degrees (double for the national average).

Google has a $649 billion market cap. It can afford to fund massive scholarships at the best schools to attract the women it needs to gain an intellectual cultural foothold for women at its company — a foothold that would change the culture that enabled Damore to communicate as he did. Decisive leadership changes cultures.

I’ve seen this happen in real life at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Company. While decisively recovering from a class-action lawsuit that women brought to a successful decision, NPC CEO Andre Wyss disciplined management to the extent that he was succeeded by a woman, who had 50 percent women reporting to her (including scientific functions). It took him several years, but by the time he concluded his magnificent diversity management initiative, there were no more excuses in executive diversity council meetings. None. There was pride. And NPC was ranked number one on our Top 50 list. Twice.

Why should Google make an investment in diversity management?

As Damore pointed out in his essay, there are differences between men and women, but the differences themselves are instrumental to the future innovation necessary to keep ahead of technology, demographic and cultural change. 100 years ago, Detroit was Silicon Valley. People flocked there from all over. Detroit’s population peaked in 1950 with 1.8 million people; currently it has 677,000 and the signs in the Detroit airport are bi-lingual, Chinese and English. The Big 3 were out-innovated. But they are recovering. General Motors (No. 42 on our Top 50) moved the cool-car Cadillac division headquarters to extremely diverse SoHo Manhattan.

Related links:

https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2005/11/art3full.pdf

https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpsee_e16.htm

https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_303.htm

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2012/07/12/11938/the-state-of-diversity-in-todays-workforce/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2013/10/25/77924/the-role-of-people-of-color-in-the-future-workforce/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/181292/third-oldest-baby-boomers-working.aspx

https://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/herman/reports/futurework/conference/trends/trendsI.htm

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  • Thanks for this, Mr. Visconti. (The introduction to this piece states, “the title of his column is meant to be humorous,” but I could not find a title on MY monitor screen. I’ll assume the title referred to is “Ask the White Guy” since I seem to recall that disclaimer from past editions of that column. Seems like it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those…)

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