Working in corporate America for the last twenty-odd years, I’ve seen “diversity” from many vantage points. In the heady days of the 1980s, it was a “business imperative.” In the leaner times since then, not so much. Once the bottom line moves from black to red, on site diversity managers and diversity training and programs shrink or disappear completely.
If such things are “essential” the way, for example good R&D or inventory control are, why, when times get tough, do they go away? Because they were not essential, at least not the way they were being run by politically correct human resources gurus. What was essential was to say they were essential to justify the added expense and headcount as well as to placate the diversity industry that sprang up to meet this “business need.”
So, can diversity be a good thing, even a “business imperative?” Absolutely, if properly pursued. Unfortunately, what diversity means in most organizations is having an acceptable number of people who are not white and male on the payroll. This we’re told is helpful because it exposes decision making to a variety of points of view. However, I suggest this view of diversity is a result of stereotyping and even racism and sexism. Think about it. If you assume having a black person in the office automatically gives you a different point of view than having a white person would, you’re assuming no black person would ever think the same way as a white person. You’re stereotyping him or her based on skin color. You’re assuming there is a “black” point of view which also implies black people are a monolithic group. If I said all black people look alike, I’d (legitimately) be called a racist. Why if I say they all think alike is the same not true?
The problem with most corporate and government diversity programs is that their goal is diversity of appearance, not diversity of opinion. In fact, the thing institutional diversity programs want least, is a real diversity of opinion. If you don’t believe that, just express an opinion outside the politically correct party line (such as that expressed in this post) next time you’re in “diversity training.”
The truth is diversity can be had in a room full of all black people or all white people or all women just as well as it can in a room full of a mixture of all three. The key to truly helpful diversity is to pursue a diversity of opinion or point of view without regard to race, sex or other external factors – you know, those things we’re constantly being told are unimportant. Of course, that’s more difficult to do and not as easy to measure as counting the number of noses of a certain color but if your agenda is to help organizations be truly diverse, that’s the way to do it.
Other voices on this topic:
‘Diversity’: The Magic Word by Thomas Sowell
Diversity, Yes; Force, No by Christopher Westley