Truth from the Diversity Trenches
Why is it so difficult for us to discuss Race in America? Corporate America began working on Diversity & Inclusion in 1980, just after the publication of the Hudson Institute Report. That report told us that there would be a change in the demographics of the labor force, with more diversity and less white males. We stepped up to the plate and began the journey to understand our differences. Since 1980 we have implemented elegant strategies, imposed new laws, paid huge fines for indiscretions, trained countless numbers in diversity awareness, applied metrics where we could find them, won awards for our efforts, been listed as the Best Company to work for, named as the benchmark company to follow, and yet, we still seem nervous of having an authentic conversation about race.
Perhaps we can find the answer to this paradox embedded in our cultural tendency towards impatience. We are a nation of soundbites, early bird specials, happy hours and 30 second marketing slogans. We want things to happen fast and we lose patience when they drag on. We are always looking for the new leading edge of diversity. Race is an old topic, we did that in the 80’s. We seek new and exciting topics to address, such as the Generational Gap, Globalization, and the Graying of America, and new topics will continue to emerge. Globality is creeping over the horizon, Nationality challenges are being addressed by Global companies who want to ensure that they use local talent at the top around the world, and we have not even begun to explore the impact of secular and non-secular differences in a global marketplace. On GLBT issues we are still tentatively exploring the G, with an occasional glance at the L and have our eyes diverted from the BT; so we certainly know there is more work to do there.
In this era of Alternative Energy and Sustainability, recycling is a good thing. Perhaps it is time for us to recycle back around and ask ourselves if our work on Race (and Gender) are really as “old hat” as we think they are. Are there conversations we could still have with each other; conversations that would not only enhance relationships but would accelerate our competitiveness as a Nation. After all, we are much more sophisticated in our communication across differences today than we were in 1980, so perhaps if we applied these new skills with a determination to stay in the dialog, then Corporate America could once again be the trendsetters in moving the national consciousness away from cowardice and towards courage, creativity and accelerated productivity.
R – Reach out across differences
A – Activate authentic dialog
C – Communicate for understanding
E – Engage in building stronger alliances across Racial lines