Recipe for Success – Melt or Stir Gently? Homogenization vs. Diversification

A growing number of Americans now drive out to the countryside to buy non-homogenized milk directly from small, family-owned farms. Why? Because it has more flavor than the sanitized, grocery store variety. It’s also more satisfying.

Diversity in the workplace isn’t about eradicating the attitudes, styles, characteristics, and cultural traits which make people different, but about respecting and celebrating those differences. Studies show that diverse workforces have an edge over their more homogenous competitors when it comes to innovation. A team made up of people of different genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and religions will, by its varied nature, be more dynamic in its approach to creating new products and services and improving old ones. Such teams also put a more diverse spin on the advertising of these products and services. Bland down your employees’ differences by, overtly or subtly, encouraging them all to think and act the same and you will end up with the human resources equivalent of homogenized grocery-store milk.

When I was in school, teachers taught us that America was one big melting pot into which generation after generation of immigrants was assimilated. Today the trend in American schools, as well as in American society, is to move away from assimilation and towards multiculturalism. Drawing on the art and music and cuisine and traditions of  immigrants makes our country more colorful and more interesting than any melting pot ever could. To derive the greatest benefits from your employees’ backgrounds, do not push a culture of assimilation but one of mutual respect. This, in turn, will attract a more diverse customer base.  As whites slowly lose their foothold as the majority race in our country, appealing to more diverse clientele simply makes good business sense.

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In her recent commentary “2013: The Year Men Became Obsolete?” for Time Magazine (December 30, 2013) Camille Paglia addressed the error Americans have made in expecting successful, high-achieving women to act like men.  “In France, Italy, Spain and Latin America, by contrast, many ambitious women seem to have found a formula for asserting power and authority in the workplace while still projecting sexual allure and even glamor. This is the true feminine mystique, which cannot be taught but flows from an instinctive recognition of sexual differences.”

The purpose of diversity training should not be to create a gender-blind, race-blind, homogenous workforce, but a workforce which values and capitalizes on the diverse merits and strengths of its employees.

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The Ceiling May Have Been Cast from Glass, but The Women Had the Floor.

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Today my husband had one of the best ideas I’ve heard yet for solving the ongoing crisis in the Middle East: provide all the women with arms so they can take over their societies. Then they’ll work together for peace.

While he may be accused of reverse gender-discrimination, there is an element of truth behind his idea. In fact, we recently experienced the power of women to set aside conflicts and promote peace right here in the U.S.  Last October, jeopardizing re-election in their home districts, women senators from both parties joined forces to break through the  partisan impasse that was on the verge of shutting down our country. Their “negotiating framework formed the centerpiece of a tentative Senate deal to reopen the federal government and avert a disastrous default.

As Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) put it, “The truth is, women in the Senate is a good thing. We’re all just glad they allowed us to tag along so we could see how it’s done.

I’m still trying to figure out precisely why the women were more willing and more successful at working towards the common good than so many of their male colleagues.  Are women, as a gender, more concerned with the good of the whole than with stoking their own egos or pursuing their own ambitions?  (Certainly I have known many women for whom this is not true!). Could the very characteristics which make women more effective peacemakers or, at least, more inclined to take personal risks to promote peace, be the reason  they do not move up corporate and political ladders with the same speed and alacrity as men?

When Business Executive Jack Donaghy (played Alec Baldwin  in the sorely-missed television show, Thirty Rock), is passed over for a promotion to CEO, he sadly proclaims, ” I cannot go to another business school reunion and sit at the non-CEO table with the women and nice men.”

I would like to think that one’s ability to move up  the ranks of power (be it in business or in government) and one’s ability to work for the good of the whole are not mutually exclusive.  But the truth is I’m not so sure.