Diversity in the workforce.
Recently I was thinking about diversity in the workforce. I’ve written and spoke about this subject for over fifteen years, mostly focusing on advertising agencies. Looking through a book of mine and all my blog posts on this topic, I wondered, “What is diversity in the work force? Does it have a specific definition, specific values?”
The obvious values have to do with gender, ethnicity, age. But are there more? Should you consider a slew of other variables?
How about religious diversity? Educational diversity? Economic diversity – hiring people whose backgrounds vary from poverty to working class to middle-class to upper middle-class to rich? How about geographical diversity? In the United States, would diversity mean that you should hire people from the North, South, Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii?
How about internationally? Should we try to hire people born and raised in other countries?
What about companies in countries around the world? What would their values be? I’m guessing that a company in London, England might have a completely different take on ‘diversity in the workforce’ than, say, Edinburgh, Scotland. And other countries must have different definitions of ‘diversity in the workforce’. What would it mean in Italy, India, Turkey, South Africa, Japan?
What is diversity in the workforce?
London is very multicultural. It's possible to walk around the city for long periods of time and not hear English being spoken. It is a diverse city but this doesn't mean it is an inclusive or comfortable city. Diversity can happen in places and organisations, it's how they manage the process of inclusion that make the difference.
Ultimately, diversity is having diverse perspectives. All of the things you mentioned from traditional measures (age, race, gender) through socio economic, educational, geographic, and other life experience differences contribute to unique perspectives. While there is no known magic “number” to the makeup of ideal diversity, it has been shown that the depth, breadth, and diversity of knowledge available to an organization is directly, positively related to long-term success (particularly when it comes to innovation).
So, yes, diversity goes well beyond what we have traditionally identified as indicators of diversity.