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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