Diversity Revisited

filed under Cultural Change, Key Concepts & Conversations, Resources.

I recently got involved in a LinkedIn discussion about – you guessed it – diversity.  Rob Jones, CEO of IngoodCompany in Pittsburgh, launched the conversation six or seven weeks ago in the Diversity-A World of Change group with an article by Kellye Whitney provocatively titled, “U.S. Leaders Rank Diversity Least Important Leadership Principle.”  Rob posed the question, “Are we seeing the ‘diversity’ train reaching the end of the line?”

It was a conversation for which I’d been longing. The field of diversity and inclusion (D&I) has made progress and regress.  The regression has been alternately striking and insidious. While research and field work converge around some clear “best practices,” these practices are not as widely recognized or implemented as they should be.  After the economic collapse, diversity budgets were among the first on the chopping block, people of color were losing jobs in disproportionate numbers, attacks on protections for women were increasing and conversations in the public square were proclaiming a “post-diversity” world. Really?

How and where do we talk about these things?

In less than six weeks, the LinkedIn group generated a 150-page tome. Volumes have been added since then. The comments are forthright, respectful, insightful and often brilliant. Among the commentators are internal diversity officers, human resource professionals, external consultants and those completely outside the field; some with vast experience and some with little to none; those of high profile and those who are relatively unknown. The group spans continents, countries, disciplines, sectors and areas of expertise.  The conversation has been wide-ranging and specific, detailed and broad-brushed, concrete and abstract, intellectual and passionate.  It’s also been one more remarkable illustration of the power of social media.

This online discussion has, in a few weeks, mirrored the process of the past few decades within what we can loosely call the D&I field.  Loosely, because this “field” is made up of multiple sprawling and unruly bodies of theory, research and field work; it has developed in a constantly changing and increasingly difficult context and it has never been fully integrated into the fabric of business or any other sector of U.S. society.

The same questions have also surfaced in this discussion as have arisen in the field at large:  What is diversity? Whom does it include?  Who owns it?  How do we measure it? What will it take to get the top leaders to fully engage?

And to this has been added a new question: Is this the end of the line, or were the tracks damaged in the night?

Some of us have some answers that have worked well to move things forward in some organizations.  I’ve written about those things on this blog in the past and will post developing ideas as they take form.  What’s most exciting about this LinkedIn conversation are the possibilities it generates: for yet a new level of development in the field now called diversity and inclusion, for the chance to practice what we preach and bring our differences together to innovate in service of a shared mission, for the opportunity to learn continually and maybe – just maybe – for the birth of a new paradigm that at once transcends past thinking and includes all of the elements that have brought us to this point.

See past posts about defining diversity, compliance and culture and more.  Post a comment. Join the conversation.

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