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You have Diversity. Now, what are you going to do with it? Rosalie Harrison, Borderless Partner, provides insight from an unexpected source.
As a professional helping organizations define and drive their diversity initiatives, I am always looking for inspiration to make my point. Sometimes, I have to look no further than my own dinner table. Let me give you a powerful example of my latest epiphany.
My husband is the Chief Operating Officer for a global manufacturing company. Several months ago, he was hosting his worldwide team in Mexico to run a number of Japanese style Kaizen improvement events. One morning, I awoke to a text. It was a smiling picture of my husband covered in all sorts of paints, as if someone had used him as a canvas. I turned the picture to my 15-year old daughter with a scoff, “See how hard your Dad is working?” My daughter rolled her eyes at me. “He is not just goofing off, Mom. Dad is celebrating the Indian festival of Holi with his team. Everybody knows that.”
This exchange stopped me in my tracks. It was, of course, already quite extraordinary that my American husband was in Mexico on behalf of his European company utilizing a Japanese system of manufacturing to drive efficiencies while taking time to honor the cultural traditions of the Indian members of his team. It was quite another thing for my 15-year old daughter – who has never been to India – to exhibit such a relevant and timely knowledge of the world. Thanks to Apps like Instagram and Snapchat, the diversity of the world is at her fingertips — in real time – no matter where she is.
I found this entire exchange deeply relevant to my consulting work in the field of Diversity & Inclusion. Now when I ask clients the simple question, “Got Diversity?” I do not have to wait for the answer. The answer is of course you do. Perhaps you haven’t attained the level or mix of diversity you desire, especially within your leadership ranks (and this is the subject of another article entirely), but diversity is present in every area of your business, i.e., your workforce, your suppliers, your consumers, your investors etc. and it is here to stay.
Furthermore, this diversity is not the traditional “equal employment opportunity,” compliance and protected class definition of diversity I was raised on. This is so much more. This diversity is vibrant. It is the stuff of innovation, progress, impact and, yes, profitability. It’s diversity of thought and perspective and personality and approach. It’s generational diversity and a mix of cultural perspectives and experiences that defy categorization. It’s diversity that dances through the hands of your future workers and consumers as a steady stream of pictures, ideas, foods, merchandise, music, and art. It is a diversity that is woven into the very fabric of our global connections as human beings.
So, armed with this relevant diversity definition and realization, I am more motivated than ever to have the relevant and very simple discussions with clients about their D&I efforts. Now, it goes like this.
You have Diversity. Now, what are you going to do with it?