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Preachin’ to the Choir

October 12, 2011

I was recently privy to a conversation amongst some HR professionals on the topic of diversity and inclusion.  It was stated that a primary objective for an organization to have a Diversity/Inclusion program is to ensure that “everyone is treated the same as if there were no visible signs of being different.”

The conversation continued as definitions for diversity were bandied about, including the ever-popular “diversity means demographic representation.” (further clarified with explanations of “that means age, race and sex.”).

Also, part of this conversation included discussion around how to ‘sell the idea’ of diversity initiatives to organizational leaders and/or employees.

Pinch me.  Did I fall asleep and wake up in 1986?

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As the marvelous Joe Gerstandt likes to point out, whenever there are two people in a room than BAM – you have diversity (ok, I added the BAM).

So why do so many HR professionals continue to use the same ancient definitions/ideas such as equating diversity with, well, ‘protected classes’ – women, Asians, veterans, people over 40?  Is it because it’s easy?  Is it because the typical HR Leader is reluctant to tell the other Leaders in her organization that they are racist, chauvinistic, homophobic anachronisms?   Perhaps that’s the reality.  Therefore, years later, it’s still easier to call the attempts to bust-up institutionalized racism, sexism and ageism a “Diversity Initiative.”

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This is the month when several local organizations are presenting “Diversity” awards to employers.  In fact, I’ll be attending one of the events where an award is bestowed.  I’m not particularly sure of the criteria used to determine recipients.  However, I remain ever hopeful that any organization that submitted, for consideration, the racial composition of their workforce as proof that they’re committed to diversity, be forever banned from any such award.  And if a company representative talks about how they “sold” their Senior Leaders on a Diversity/Inclusion program through an emphasis on AA or EEO numbers, stats and required good faith-efforts, I may just lose it.

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Sometimes we think that other HR people ‘get it’ – that we don’t have to further discuss what diversity means.  HR rolls this stuff out and explains it to other people, right?

Sadly – right.

Perhaps it IS time to start preachin’ to the choir.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim Gardner permalink
    October 12, 2011 7:13 am

    I’ve found, at times, that the HR Choir can’t read music and think they can fake it. Their own biases are right in their blind spot.

  2. HRBR permalink
    October 12, 2011 10:25 am

    Well, you may wish to start talking yourself off the ledge now. It is a Diversity Award–not an in inclusion award.

    And there is a difference! I like to explain it like this: Diversity counts people; with Inclusion people count. Just a little something I picked up from a small organization called Girl Scouts.

    We are all different in so many ways. So, yes, preach on! I say Amen to this post! And hell yeah!

  3. October 19, 2011 8:53 am

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you and Joe on this one. Diversity is not any two people in a room, in my experience. For example if 2 HR folks are talking is a that a diverse conversation from the eyes of a rank and file employee? probably not.

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