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8 Major Myths of Diversity

By Mauricio Velásquez, MBA

President, CEO – The Diversity Training Group

 

Having worked in the field nearly 20 years and as President, CEO, of DTG for nearly fifteen years, I have confronted these myths over and over

and I am constantly debunking them. 

I often distribute this document prior to a diversity-related conversation, forum or training to undo the bias about an upcoming workshop on bias (what I call bias squared).

Myth 1:  Diversity is a problem.  No, it is an opportunity.You can’t understand and take advantage of something you don’t know you don’t know (something you don’t understand).  Your diversity strategy and plan is an opportunity to differentiate your organization from your competition – don’t blow it.  You often hear “we are in a war for talent” and being an organization that values diversity and is inclusive is an organization that is a “good place to work” for all talent and you will be winners of this war.

Myth 2:  Diversity is our Human Resource Department’s responsibility.  No, it is my responsibility. Too many people tell me “that’s not my problem; our personnel people have to handle the diversity issues.” Wrong. We all (leaders, managers, supervisors and employees) play a significant role.  We all have a “shared responsibility” to value the diversity of our talent staff and include all of them.

Myth 3:  Diversity is just about race and gender.  No, it is much broader than that. I used to be called a “Cultural Diversity Trainer" and then I was a Diversity Trainer and know the conversation is moving to “being more inclusive.”  Like any field, the conversation, “diversity work” is evolving and improving. 

Myth 4:  Diversity is about minorities and women in the workplace.  No, diversity is about your internal (employees) and external (prospective clients) and customers. Understanding the diversity in your employee and customer ranks and anticipating their needs can make or break your organization (most likely break if you subscribe to this myth).  Diversity marketing – marketing to new, increasingly diverse “emerging markets” is a hot new field.

Myth 5:  Diversity is about exclusivity.  No, it is about inclusivity. In other words, diversity is about all of us. If you feel diversity is about attacking the white male, you are mistaken, and the class you went through was poorly facilitated. Diversity is not about getting “them” into your corporate culture (assimilation). Diversity is about creating a culture where everyone (each individual) can thrive and contribute to your organization (integration/multiculturalism) and serve your ever more diverse customers.

Myth 6:  Diversity is about lowering standards.  Be very careful with this notion.  Many people I have worked with have taken great offense to this perception.  My clients are not lowering standards but widening the net and sometimes raising standards or rewriting them.

Myth 7:  Diversity is just another fad.  If you think it is, good luck. Look at your workforce and client marketplace today and compare it with five and ten years ago and try to look five and ten years into the future. Do the same analysis for your customer base. Have you seen the demographic projections for the future? It will blow your socks off!  Census 2010 data is starting to come out and it appears the United States, our workforce, our marketplace is even more diverse now than anyone predicted.

Myth 8:  Diversity is another version of Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action.  No, it is very different from EEO/AA. Diversity concerns all of your employees and your customers and is all-inclusive. Minorities and women are context for EEO/AA: Major differences between EEO/AA and Diversity are:

  • EEO/AA is government-initiated while Diversity is voluntary and company-driven.
  • EEO/AA is also legally-driven while Diversity is productivity-driven. EEO/AA is quantitative and Diversity is qualitative.
  • EEO/AA is problem focused whereas Diversity focuses on opportunities.
  • EEO/AA assumes assimilation among its participants but Diversity assumes integration.
  • EEO/AA has a strictly internal focus where Diversity focuses on internal and external issues.
  • EEO/AA is reactive but Diversity is proactive.

 

Well, there you have it – a whole lot to consider.  The diversity journey is long and the destination is not a place your organization will get to in the short term.  Remember, you need people, passion, purpose, and a plan – what we call at DTG the 4 P’s.  You have to have the best people, the best minds, and the best talent from all diverse backgrounds.  You have to have a real passion for what products or services your organization offers to the marketplace.  You have to have a purpose (a mission) and a plan to achieve your purpose – your diversity strategy and plan will do just that.

 

Mauricio Velásquez, MBA, is President and CEO of the Diversity Training Group based in Herndon, VA.  He can be reached at 1.800.684.4250 or mauriciov@diversitydtg.com

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