There is conflict over an issue in the field of diversity and inclusion that needs to be addressed. Here are the two opposing schools of thought:

  1. Diversity is a long process, and every disenfranchised group can’t get there at once. As we work on gender and racial diversity, we will open the door for other groups.
  2. The siloing of advancement in diversity is holding every group back. The very idea of diversity and inclusion is that every group should be equal and represented fully in business. You can’t have partial diversity and consider that a success.

In recent years, businesses have been paying closer attention to diversity issues, since studies continue to show that diverse workforces are more productive, and more profitable, than homogenous ones. They are also more creative because people coming from diverse backgrounds with varied life experiences bring different approaches. It only makes sense that diversity of thought breeds more creative and effective problem solving.

So, for the purposes of this discussion, we can agree that diversity is good for business. The sticking point has always been how to actually make it happen in the workplace. The business world is rife with consultants whose purpose is to help organizations shift their hiring practices and create more diverse employee workforces, but it has been slow going at many companies. This slow movement is obviously of great concern for everyone shut out by homogenized work cultures, but this is critically important to those individuals who do not fit the two groups most talked about in the movement – gender and racial diversity. If it has taken this long to work towards a CONVERSATION on diversity for those groups, how long will individuals with differences not connected to race and gender have to wait for their turn to be included?

The Reality of Diversity Today

In order to get to the heart of the matter, let’s look at where diversity in business stands today:

Now let’s look at the US population:

  • 13 percent of the population is African American
  • 8 percent of the population is female (2010 US Census)
  • 5 million people in the US have trouble using their voices.
  • More than 3.5 million Americans have autism.
  • 53 million Americans live with a disability, according to the CDC.

Not only do we have the persistent issue of primarily all white male executive leadership in business, the employment numbers of those with a disability of any type are startling. So how do we fix it?

One for All, and All for One

In order to understand why separate movements for diversity are less effective than an inclusive one, we only have to look at the Women’s Suffragette Movement. Lucy Stone, the founder of the original movement, broke with her friends Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton because unlike her, they did not support the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, giving black men citizenship and the right to vote. Their movements splintered as Susan B. Anthony moved closer to radical anti-black groups, and many scholars argue that this separation caused a delay in the movement accomplishing their goals.

Sadly, a thorough study of the impact of diversity outside of race and gender has yet to be undertaken. The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills undertook an international assessment of diversity studies and found:

“There are very few workplace studies that attempt to quantify the impacts of diversity on business outcomes, when considering disability, religion and sexual orientation. In many instances this is a result of data limitations. Very few private sector firms collect systematic and useable data on religion and sexual orientation (see for instance, 2012 Diversity League Tables). Even if they do, response rates can be very low and data on disability are often hard to analyse as they are often self-reported and can cover a wide range of conditions. “

One of our goals at The Speech Factor is to raise awareness and promote the undertaking of a study that we believe will show that diversity in all forms holds a clear benefit for businesses.

It is obvious that if all marginalized groups gathered together under a unified front they’d have a far greater number of people pushing towards the same goal, with an undeniably louder voice. Diversity can’t work in silos, because the silos are exactly what it needs to destroy in order to have success.

Photo Credit: deyan_georgiev via Compfight cc

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