The Era of Diversity Talk and No Action Is Over – by Joseph Nwoye

It’s Time for A Paradigm Shift 

Joseph NwoyeDiversity is increasingly becoming a powerful force in the determination of an organization’s success. Everyone has talents, some of which are recognized and used, and others never identified and thus never put into use. Organizations that engage diverse teams can draw on the synergy associate with it to innovate and subsequently achieve unprecedented success.  It is evidenced in Harvard Business Review article, titled, “How diversity can drive innovation.”  In that piece, (Hewlett, Marshall & Sherbin) assert, “Employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”

Considering various research showing the correlation between diversity and business success, many organizations are now, for good reasons, calling for greater diversity in the board room and significant areas of leadership in our global market place.  There is clearly ubiquitous evidence demonstrating that diversity correlates with business success. McKinsey and company assert “New research makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.” According to Deloitte, “Diversity and inclusion at the workplace are now CEO-level issues, but they continue to be frustrating and challenging for many companies.”

The power of diversity as a crucial factor in business success is becoming obvious in every aspect of it. In a recent article in the New York Times, Ted Kennedy Jr. reminds us about historical marginalization of disabled people this way, “For years, companies have maintained low expectations about hiring people with disabilities. Most of these companies believed that employees with disabilities could not perform well in the workplace and that actively hiring them would drag company performance and profits down.” Obviously, that was then and now, new research “strongly suggests that the opposite — that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.”

Clearly, the impact of diversity in an organization’s success is overwhelming, and the same is true in counties that embrace diversity and inclusion. For example, Montgomery county, Maryland has consistently claimed to be a national model in the context of creating and nurturing diverse communities.

If that is the case as McKinsey and company assert, “New research makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better,” besides, diversity provides economic opportunity for all to live a successful life. Therefore, diversity shouldn’t be optional for any organization to pick and choose whether to discriminate against certain members of our society, especially when we know of the ubiquitous bias that often impede social and economic mobility of victims, and in some cases ruin their lives.

In fact, as a society representing people from all corners of the earth, diversity should be morally imperative for all businesses regardless of their view of it; they must adhere to diversity and inclusion, in ways that ensure all citizens are treated fairly, while instilling in all the believe that they have a shot at a good life like everyone one else. Diversity has also proven to be a crucial element in organization’s effort to foster peace, equity and social justice for all in communities that take it seriously.  Diversity therefore has become more than merely a good act for business success, it is also economically good for community’s ability to creating peace, equity and social justice for all.

On the contrary, we have seen communities whose leaders employ their bias in the creation of divisions, “we versus them mentality,” and subsequently cause pain and anguish for their victims. For instance, community leaders in Ferguson, Missouri had proven to be notorious in creating divisions with their “we versus them mentality.” What we saw in Ferguson according to the Dept. of Justice was nothing to be written home about-those leaders negated and abandoned their responsibility in working and creating progressive communities where everyone had a shot at the good life the community provides. Instead, they resorted to providing unearned benefits to certain members of their community at the expense of others-especially their minority victims. The question then becomes, why is it that some organizations or communities are still operating under the old paradigm (Jim Crow), a model that marginalizes and blatantly discriminate against people on the bases of the issues of isms (race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.)?

It’s clear that despite the success diversity brings to the world, some organizations and communities still ignore it. What should be done to persuade all organizations and communities to embrace diversity and thus work towards creating a world of peace, equity and social justice for all? We must repurpose diversity by making it clearer at all levels that the era of diversity being afterthought is over, diversity and the creation of opportunity for all should be reconceptualized as a rule where violators are held to account.

In order to ensure that organizations (public or private) engage in diversity and inclusive practices that work for all, there must be a paradigm shift on how organizations address the issues associated with diversity. Although diversity has been strongly linked to business success, but that is not enough, we must not rely on the goodness of business to always do the right thing, especially when research has implicated some businesses involved in the practices of undermining the law for profit purposes at the expense of the common good.  We must look at diversity in the context of public good and thus have mechanisms in place to compel organizations to act accordingly. The era of discriminatory practices driven by ignorance and bias on the bases of people’s differences should be over for good, and companies that do not adhere to diversity and inclusive practices that work for all must be confronted in defense of public good. To that end, I offer some suggestion.

First, I suggest that organizations embrace a new paradigm – one that enables them to change their approach and to finally commit to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of their operation. I believe that effective diverse team must require those in leadership to adapt a systemic approach to diversity, one in which strategy for achieving desired diversity goals are deliberately woven into every level of operation along with whatever else that works based on business or community needs.

Secondly, I would encourage organizations to tap into the power of diversity training that delivers successful results, and while at it, they should be prepared to replicate what works in other organizations. Organizations that are serious about diversity could take a page from those that have worked successfully. For instance, businesses could take a page from our nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s success story. According to the agency’s position, “A successful outcome is determined by whether you have followed the plans detailed in your regulatory strategy, as well as the commitments you have made to the FDA.” If FDA success depends upon compliance with the Agency’s regulations, business organizations should learn from FDA while employing a systemic approach to diversity that incorporate FDA model that focuses on compliance within the organization’s leadership. If that model works for FDA, it will certainly work for any organization that models compliance and commitment to diversity that fosters peace, equity and social justice for all.

Finally, I would advocate for continuous assessment for the purposes of ensuing sustained improvement. It could be in form of auditing based on simple questions to ascertain what they are doing well as well as problem area and learning from those experiences while putting the entire organization on the trend for a sustained improvement and success.


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