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Practical perspectives on a complex issue
Whenever we talk about diversity, the usual response magnetically draws the conversation around ethnicity and enhanced productivity. But is this the end of the discussion or the beginning of it? We assembled a small roundtable to examine the broader effects of the issue. We’re using only first names for the sake of anonymity.
Vince: Let’s go beyond the general observation of different ethnicities impacting the need for diversity in the workplace. Why is diversity important to you all?
Michelle: I think of diversity as a career opportunity. When I see an Asian woman or man that is in a position of authority, I believe that I can aspire to that height as well. It’s like when you hear about the first woman astronaut or Vice President of the US—it suddenly wakes everyone up to the fact that we’ve been missing that reality for, well, forever. Busting the ceiling gives everyone hope that the same could happen in other fields.
Halen: Yeah, I agree. It’s funny. You don’t notice a lack of diversity until you belong to a company that puts it into practice. I was just doing my job at my former company, but when I moved on, I suddenly felt: wow, that was a backward place to be. But you should have both environments working together: people who do their job well, and people who are different from each other and non-judgmental about who thought up what idea.
Tina: But it seems like judgment is still with us. Ten years ago, only 2% of chief creative officers were female; now it’s 29%. Should we be cheering that the numbers have exploded in women’s favor, or still shocked at the existing inequity?
Vince: How else do you look at diversity as a principle in the workplace?
Marieli: Experience. This is my first real job outside of college. So, I’m consciously aware of how I need to catch up to the rest of the company. While I’m still a little intimidated by this, I feel that the company welcomes my youth because they want to pick my brain about the newest trends and design applications.
Vince: As one of the most senior corporate citizens, I’m your biggest fan in seeking out your fresh perspective to keep me current.
Halen: It’s really a two-way street though—a diversity of effort. It’s our responsibility to engage your experience, just as it’s your responsibility to be intellectually curious, which you are.
Michelle: I think personality is another principle of diversity. Some companies actively recruit Type-A Workaholics. Why not have a healthy mixture of personality types? And I say this as the child of “Tiger” parents, who taught me to be aggressive and welcoming of whatever challenge came my way.
Marieli: Wow, I envy you. I’m more of a seeker first, and doer next.
Michelle: Mutual envy is what we should practice.
Halen: That’s what I was talking about earlier. A diversity of personalities is needed to make the operation run effectively.
Tina: And different personalities create the need for a new kind of communication. Should we talk to people who work or just to workers who happen to be people? The diversity of corporate culture mandates a new kind of innovation where our personal selves are honored as much as our professional selves. We should practice “group individuality,” if that’s a thing.
Vince: I agree. A friend of mine at a top agency said, “We’re a machine, Vince.” And my first thought was, “Who would want to work for a machine?”
Halen: One last thing I’d like to add is about the diversity of geography. COVID-19 has taught us that you don’t have to rely on local geography to hire. With diverse talent coming from the virtual workplace, there is no such thing as urban superiority of resources. A suburb becomes as cosmopolitan as a city.
Vince: Thanks everyone for your keen insights about this topic.