Is Diversity Just a Workplace Issue?

Gazette Business 380
February 13, 2011

Article Submitted by: Hazel Pegues, Executive Director, Diversity Focus

For those of us who live and work in the Corridor region, this is a compelling question that community members, employers, organizations, employees, government and leadership will want to consider. As our region transforms itself and looks toward innovative ideas and models for a way forward, awareness and implementation strategies for diversity and inclusion is certainly still a workplace issue. However, the issue is not exclusive to the workplace. There are "other places" that impact our efforts at transformation.

At Diversity Focus, we see ourselves as a resource for helping all in the community to integrate diversity and inclusion into the Corridor plans for growing a successful and economically viable region.

Workplaces that want to remain competitive and retain employees will want to proactively embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Women, people with disabilities, and individuals from varied races, backgrounds and lifestyle choices will be needed. Not only will they be needed due to demographic shifts, but to provide added viewpoints and insight that a workplace may lack. These groups typically represent a source of untapped or underutilized talent as well.

Creating jobs is a priority for the region. Should local and regional plans and strategies for job creation include approaches for managing diversity? The increasingly diverse workforce and how to successfully manage it should be factored into thinking about job creation, growth, and retention. As success happens, more emphasis will be needed on Workplace Diversity Management Plans and Strategies. Some questions growing workplaces might want to consider:

  1. Do you already have a Diversity Management Plan? If yes, what are the key elements?
  2. If no, do you need a Diversity Management Plan?
  3. What are your diversity objectives and goals? If none, should you have some?
  4. Who within the organization will benefit from a Diversity Management Plan?
  5. Who would be involved in your Diversity Management Plan?
  6. What is your timeline to develop, implement and evaluate your Diversity Management Plan?

How well growing workplaces manage diversity will determine how successful the region will perform at growing jobs. SHIFT* speaker, Carlos Gutierrez reminded us that managing diversity is more important than ever. He said "our nation’s diversity is our competitive advantage in the global economy."

While much of the recognition of the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion has been focused primarily on workplaces, there is an ever growing consensus that expansion beyond the work place is needed. We won't expand nor retain workers for the jobs we create if we don't also create communities that allow for quality of life diverse populations seek.

Diversity and inclusion thought leaders see a need for representatives from the business, governments, social services, education, and the media sectors to work together to incorporate the idea of diversity and inclusion. If we continue to work in silos the impact on quality of life will be limited compared to the impact the sectors can have when working in partnership.

The need for expanding the awareness and value of diversity and inclusion beyond the workplace revealed itself prominently in Diversity Focus' 2009 Corridor Diversity Climate study. Some of the findings in the study confirmed that all sectors of the Corridor must work in partnership to have a community that values diversity and creates the quality of life that retains diverse populations. An example: When respondents were asked to "identify situations where they felt discriminated against based on intolerance." Out of 21 different situations, their top responses were:

  • 22 % At stores
  • 21% Employment
  • 19% Child related
  • 19% Law enforcement

These findings along with others from the study highlight that as a region we must expand our thinking beyond diversity and inclusion as primarily workplace issues. These are community-wide issues that will take all sectors of the community working in partnership to create solutions.

Diversity Focus invites you to work in partnership with us in our community-wide programming for the year. Gain the encouragement and skills to make diversity and inclusion an integral part of our community’s growth and success.

SHIFT* Speaker Series: Driving Diversity as a Vehicle for Success
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski - April 20, Kirkwood Hotel, CR
Sir Ken Robinson - July 26, Sheraton Hotel, IC
Grace A. Odums - November 3, Coralville Marriott

Diversity and Inclusion Training (On request at-your-site)
Courageous Leaders Conference - November 3-4, Coralville Marriott
Student Diversity Leadership Conference - October 19, Mt. Mercy University
Listen for Diversity Focus Radio Moments - on your local airwaves

Visit diversityfocus.org.

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