Dimensional Differences

Time, at last, to get back to The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan.  We last talked about this book in February 2014 with a look at how SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, or Veteran Business Enterprise) business owners could be members of multiple groups and discussed the dynamics of these memberships.  Chapter seven addresses the Western culture’s paradox of diversity dynamics.  The dynamic “… is captured in the following unattributed quote, made during a time when racial awareness was changing ‘How dare you think of me as black and don’t you ever forget that I am.'”  The first update would be to replace black with African American.  Then you can take this quote and substitute with ‘a woman’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘gay’, ‘disabled’, ‘veteran’ … well, you get it.  We have to recognize that time and language change and that “… one of the biggest challenges in treating each person as a unique individual is the fact that our culture is rife with stereotypes.”  Lots of different stereotypes.  I joke about it when I’m making arrangements to meet someone new at the coffee shop because I’m likely to be only short, fat, redheaded female with a cane.  Oh yeah, add older, pink and an occasional oxygen tank to the litany.  So which lens of diversity shall I look through today? Age, gender, ableness or color?

According to the research, organizations are currently interested in six key aspects of diversity that include:

  • Ableness
  • Culture and ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Generational difference (age)
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation

And, recently emerging…

  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Veteran status
  • Education

When you consider this list, the authors note, there are different types of difference. There are differences we can see and those we can’t (race, age vs. sexual orientation, religion, education, etc.); differences we’re born with and those that are learned or acquired (again race and age but veteran status is acquired, disabilities can occur at birth or happen along the way); and differences that are permanent rather than changeable (race doesn’t change, some disabilities can’t change while others might, and once a veteran always a veteran).

Membership in one or more of these groups surely impact life experiences and lead to unique perspectives that are often thought of as barriers to participation or problems to overcome. Many organizations sponsor and support internal groups or networks often referred to as employee resource groups.  Their ultimate objective ” … to better communicate the barriers the group faces and to foster networking among the members, so they can better develop their careers.”

For a small SDMWVBE business, employee resource groups tend to be prohibitive but we are fortunate to have other resources available to us through various business organizations and programs.  Affinity groups like Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (LGBT owners), U.S. Business Leadership Network (disabled and/or service disabled owners), National Women Business Owners Corporation, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and a multitude of various Chambers of Commerce (African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander, etc.) offer networking and educational opportunities for diverse business owners.  Participation in one or more of these organizations offers SDMWVBEs a venue to foster networking and better develop our businesses.