Diversity’s History: Is No One Listening?

I spent the morning today taking a journey through history.

With the recent discussion regarding the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley as well as other industries, I wondered how the discussion about diversity had changed over the last 40 years. What were the key arguments for a diverse workforce during the 1990’s,1980’s, 1970’s, and even the 1960’s? I jumped onto an online library and ran a simple search to find out. Most articles concentrated on the potential business outcomes: increased innovation; added competitive advantage; improved market share; and many other opportunities. There were certainly articles on the associated challenges (legal, policy, change, discrimination, etc.) but for the most part, I found over 40 years of information supporting the “business opportunity” of diversity.

What struck me about my journey, however, is how arguments for diversity haven’t changed, and more importantly, why haven’t they?

Graphic via Catalyst.org

Women hold only 4.6% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies – in other words, there are 23 women CEOs out of 500 companies. Approximately 5.3% of all people employed in management, professional, and related occupations are African American women; 4.4% of all people employed in management, professional, and related occupations were Latinas; and today 134 Latinos hold 172 board seats out of 5,511total seats in the Fortune 500, again representing just more than three percent of board seats.

I could go on but you get the point.

In my very unscientific and broad search, I found 40+ years of strong advocacy, thousands of compelling articles, extensive research, and undeniable evidence promoting diversity’s benefits. It’s a no brainer, right?

So why haven’t we seen significant change? Why are the same arguments still being made? Perhaps a better question is why are organizations still not listening?

Snippets from my search are below.

1 Month
“Recruiting and retaining a diverse, inclusive group of employees lets your company reflect the world around you and makes your team better able to develop fresh ideas that will meet the needs of the whole marketplace.” The Myriad Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace, Kim Abreu, Entrepreneur Magazine, December, 2014

1 Year
“With the changing demographics In the United States, It’s unsound business sense to put diversity at the bottom of the company’s priority list; it should be at the top. Today’s minority is tomorrow’s majority. Effective diversity and inclusion programs must come from the top down.”
Diversity and Inclusion Are Critical to Stay Relevant, Earsa, Jackson, Franchising World, 2014

4 Years
“Specifically, organizations that emphasize inclusion and integrate diversity into all policies and practices may benefit to a greater extent compared with organizations focusing on diversity as a stand-alone practice.” The Diverse Organization: Finding Gold at the End of the Rainbow, Kristyn Scott, Human Resource Management, November, 2011

9 years
This paper demonstrates firm performance can be positively impacted through cultural diversity and the use of the appropriate socialization tactics. Specifically, organizations with high levels of diversity that use individualized socialization tactics can positively impact performance.
Heterogeneity or Homogeneity: Socialization Makes the Difference in Firm Performance, Amy McMillian-Capehart, Performance Improvement Quarterly,  2006.

12 Years
“Where legal, moral and marketing arguments for diversity have failed, severe staffing shortages will succeed in driving home the point that diversity is good for business. ”
Embrace Diversity of Be Left Behind, John Hobel,Canadian HR Reporter, March, 2003

16 Years
“Today, a combination of demographic and business trends is creating a more diverse, team-oriented organization that presents a manager with new challenges and opportunities.”
Capitalizing on a Diverse Workforce, Margarita Mayo, Ivey Business Journal, Sep/Oct 1999

22 Years
“Some view it as an area where even angels should fear to tread. However, the potential for competitive advantages in the ’90s and the next century will make the efforts both necessary and worthwhile in your organization.”
Launching Successful Diversity Initiatives, Lawrence Baytos, HR Magazine, March 1992

27 Years
“The world of 1988 differs dramatically from 1968, particularly in the diversity of our workplaces.  Women, minorities, foreign born, and the handicapped make up a far larger percentage of the workforce today than they did 20 years ago.  The responses of managers to this growing diversity have been changing as well.”
Diversity Is Good For Business,  Katharine Etsy,  Executive Excellence; January 1988 

44 Years
“One trend that seems likely to influence management in the 1970’s is the employment of more women in supervisory and executive positions. Despite the fears harbored by many male managers, this trend should benefit business, and the authors urge corporate leaders to respond positively to pressures for equal opportunities.”
Women in Management: Pattern for Change, Fedric Jacobs, Harvard Business Review, Jul/Aug 1971


One thought on “Diversity’s History: Is No One Listening?

  1. Pingback: Who Has the Answers? | Miguel A. Corona

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