What’s Missing From Diversity

It’s one of the most popular topics in the workplace.  Either you have a lot of resources being put toward diversity (A policy! A program! A diversity officer!) or you think you are already diverse and want to shout it from the rooftops (Metrics! Team photos! Recruiting strategies!).  And that’s great.  I don’t know many people who are willing to speak out against diversity.  Yes, there are some unintended consequences if not handled properly, but I think we can give organizations the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

What troubles me about diversity, though, is what we so often leave out.  Let’s think for a second about what generally falls into the “diversity” arena:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

All very traditional topics, and all traits that define who we are.  And all fairly easy to measure.  But there are so many other things that we never really talk about, and that are a little tougher to quantify, such as:

  • Personality
  • Work style
  • Learning style
  • Learning capacity
  • Drive

Ugly list, huh?  But they sure do more to define who you are, in my opinion, than the color of your skin.

A team that represents the all the colors of the rainbow isn’t necessarily a diverse team.  And a team made up of three sets of triplets could be one of the most diverse you’ve ever seen.  Diversity is about finding out looking for the bet talent, figuring out how people think, work and succeed, and then putting them in a position to best utilize those skills so that everyone gets ahead.

Kinda sounds like the foundation of good management to me.


  1. Meh, I suppose. It’s subjective. You know I have all the love and respect for you, so anyone who reads this comment please do not take it as a challenge or dis to Mr. Lay because that’s not true. (he has been a great mentor and friend to me)

    In my circles, so much was attached to the potential of diversity from a culture and race standpoint that now it has become a source of disappoint because by and large folks that look like me (black males for those that don’t know) are being laid off and fired at an alarmingly higher rate. Although we are educated and professional we still don’t “fit” and that too is board and subjective.

    Diversity is more than simply color or sex but many times those are the things that define us and excludes us from the corporate party.

    • First of all, don’t EVER apologize for disagreeing or challenging someone, least of all me!

      You are right, there is for sure a disparate impact in places, and being part of a specific minority will make you more sensitive to seeing it. But I’d argue that everyone is in a minority of some sort, and can tell you how their group is impacted. I count myself among the minority on the work style piece for sure. That doesn’t make it the same an racial inequity, but being a middle class white kid from the suburbs, I don’t notice it the same way.

      For diversity to be done right, it has to be about getting the best talent in place, then appreciating that talent for who they are, including physical, racial and intellectual categories. THAT’S what I think of as diversity.

  2. Spot on.
    My experience (30+ yrs in HR) leads my to these conclusions:
    – The visible signs of diversity are relatively easy to see and address (e.g. with outreach recruitment and careful unbiased recruitment processes).
    – However, “fit” based recruitment, in my experience, has the potential to bring in a rainbow of new hires with similar thinking skills etc.

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