The Diversity Pyramid

Diversity is no longer just a vague concept; it is a fact of life and is here to stay.  And those who understand the implications and the advantages of diversity are reaping tremendous benefits and will continue to do so in the short- and long-term.  So whether you are currently in an organization or business, a parent, a student or an educator, learning how to leverage the dynamics of diversity is pivotal to reaping the associated benefits.  The Diversity Pyramid offers a simple explanation and a schematic approach to real-world diversity issues and often overlooked opportunities.

There are three tiers to the diversity pyramid each representing a separate and distinct interest group.  The base of the pyramid is Individual Diversity.  This is the foundation and heart of diversity.  At its core, diversity starts in the home and in school with enculturation and socialization.  This understanding is crucial to success because diversity in the 21st century hinges on individuality, on the importance of helping our youth recognize, explore, and cultivate their individual qualities and talents and celebrate their unique differences.  In turn, self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance are enriched.  Taking this a step further, the young leaders of tomorrow should be encouraged to meet new and different people and to engage in novel experiences.

The middle tier signifies Workforce Diversity.  This segment encompasses people who are currently employed, looking to change jobs, seeking first-time employment and searching for internships.  Despite these notable differences, there are two main subsets, each offering different diversity-based opportunities and possible benefits.  One represents people employed where there is a diversity program; the other symbolizes workers where this is not the case.

The smaller of the two sub-groups is comprised of people currently employed at a company or organization that runs or is planning to run a diversity program.  Accordingly, the work environment is or will be conducive to professional development, advancement, and a meaningful future.  The day-to-day payoffs are a culture of inclusiveness, fair and equitable treatment, and an appreciation for diverse thinking and creative problem solving along with the teamwork needed to support, build on and benefit from individual differences.

Those in the remaining group generally fail to realize that there are ancillary aspects of diversity that can benefit them.  The bottom line, for this subset, is that a knowledge of and insight into diversity can improve the job search process and the interview experience.  Diversity learning also offers the potential for heightened on-the-job strategic visibility, whether there is an effective diversity program in place or not.  This means becoming a team player and working to help the company or organization achieve its decisive end goals.

At the top of the pyramid is Management Diversity.  Companies with smart, forward-thinking leaders generally have instituted some type of diversity program.  If the company is large and has a global presence, the program tends to be formalized, that is, integrated into the company’s business model and well-designed.  The diversity program of a smaller, entrepreneurial operation may be less formalized but potentially effective, nonetheless.

While diversity programs vary from one company or organization to another, the policies and practices of successful programs are guided by one basic people-centric management philosophy: that the strengths and contributions of employees from different backgrounds and cultures are to be recognized, appreciated and rewarded as such.  By so doing, the company or organization is poised to establish the edge needed to compete effectively in diverse and highly aggressive environments.  Businesses reap the financial gain.  Employee-based benefits are similar whether a business entity or a non-profit organization.  These advantages include heightened employee satisfaction, greater workplace involvement, and a greater sense of accomplishment.  The net effects are a sense of community and loyalty.

An important lesson to be learned is that starting with the bottom rung, we all stand to benefit by expanding our cultural horizons and personal comfort zones.  The end benefits are a fine-tuned and enhanced ability to work with others and succeed in diverse situations.   And, by considering all aspects of the pyramid schema and taking heed, one is primed to handle life’s experiences, make informed and better decisions, and succeed in an increasingly diverse world and ever-expanding global economy.

Insight into Diversity Makes for Better Job Interviews: An Informed Process for Job Seekers

What is diversity and why should it matter? It matters because the more you know about corporate diversity, the more successful you will be in your job search process and interview experiences.

Typically, diversity is taken to mean race and ethnicity and, in some circles, gender, age and cultural differences as well. In corporate-America parlance, the term sometimes has been expanded to include other classifications, for example, religion, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities, to name a few. However, among forward thinkers of today, the definition of diversity goes beyond these broad macro categories of society. For these individuals, diversity includes the micro characteristics that reveal individual talents and qualities such as cognitive learning patterns, personality differences and leadership styles, and reflect our unique differences. The bottom line, however, is that when descriptions of diversity are distilled, inclusiveness is the common theme.

Inclusiveness is critical to this conversation because it is the platform for diversity in the workplace. Companies that are committed to diversity and run successful diversity programs are known to have inclusive work environments and to treat their employees fairly and equitably. They also are credited with providing extended career opportunities and having high rates of retention. In terms of the day-to-day work experience, employees tend to be motivated and to feel challenged as well as valued as members of their respective business teams and the workforce, in general.

Given this reality, it’s time for a practical assessment of diversity, more precisely, its role as value-added input for rethinking the job search process, when preparing for job interviews, and in weighing different job opportunities and what they hold for the future.

When seeking employment and preparing yourself for the job-search process, consider this line of inquiry:

  • What components must be in place for a diversity program to succeed?

Find out what it takes to run a successful diversity program, in essence, all of the components that must be in place and the infrastructure needed for sustainability. This knowledge will provide direction on what to look for in determining a company’s level of commitment to diversity and what to expect if you become an employee.

  • What facts can you discover about the company?

Next, collect background information on the company, namely, the nature and breadth of its ties to diversity. Start with the company’s website. Are there any references to diversity? Are they easy or hard to find? Does the diversity picture you get seem like window dressing or does it suggest a well-considered and well-run operation? In addition, find out what you can about those in leadership positions. Do any of them have current and/or prior diversity ties? Essentially, do individual backgrounds suggest that the company is likely to have a level of commitment to diversity? And, to cover all angles, follow up with a more general Internet search. Look to reputable publications and the press for general and additional diversity-specific facts about the company.


Once you’ve digested what’s been collected so far, develop a list of conversation starters, interesting points, and questions that might help to fill in the blanks and clarify what seems curious or motivating.


  • What is the company’s reputation as an employer?

Now, move on to third-party endorsements for firsthand experiences and hearsay renderings. These sources offer insight into the company’s reputation. Feedback from in-the-know family members, friends, and community contacts can provide personal and word-of-mouth stories about real-life experiences in the workplace and what the corporate culture is really like. Add the learning derived from members of professional and academic circles, and through social networking, and you are on your way….though the upfront work is not yet done.

  • What role should advisors and recruiters play in the process?

Engage school placement counselors and/or recruiters in meaningful diversity conversations using the information you’ve gleaned as a starting point. Ask for their thoughts and insights, use them as sounding boards, and have them engage you in practice runs. Push them to meet your enhanced job-search expectations, perhaps encouraging them to reassess the nature and quality of the services they provide.

At last, with the homework phase behind you and mock interviews under your belt, you are armed and better prepared for the interview. You are poised to be engaging rather than reactive, and to ask informed and intelligent questions about the company and what it holds for your future.

Ultimately, whatever the company’s stance on diversity, you will be better able to assess the pros and cons of that company and the nature of its workplace environment. You also will be better able to gauge if the position you’re seeking represents a short-term job opportunity or has the potential to offer professional growth, extended job satisfaction, and long-term career success.

Diversity Redefined – Moving Well Beyond Race and Ethnicity

Diversity, as an integral part of today’s lexicon, is an old conversation. Typically, it refers to race and ethnicity and, in some communities, to gender, age and cultural differences as well. However, the diversity of this century needs to be expanded to include the micro characteristics of the individuals of a society not just the macro categories of yesteryear.

The modern take on diversity should encompass more than the umbrella descriptors that classify groups of people based on similarities; it should go beyond assigning broad labels derived from the preordained categories of traditional diversity. Today’s diversity should speak to individuality, for it is the individual that makes up the grassroots foundation of a society and organized groups, regardless of size. Instead, we should be encouraging people to recognize, explore, and cultivate their individual qualities and talents and to celebrate their unique differences.

And why does this matter? A prime example is the role individuality plays in the business community. Essentially, individuality is critical to diverse thinking which, in turn, fosters the highly prized payoff of faster and more creative problem solving. This is one of the widely touted benefits of having and sustaining a diverse workforce. This is the edge corporate America needs to remain competitive in our global economy.

So how do we counter the spreading blight that might be termed “human massification” – the devaluation of individuality – and where do we start? Admittedly, recognizing and developing one’s unique qualities and individual talents, one’s sense of self, can and should start in the home. However, we also should consider a paradigm shift in the educational arena, given its wider and deeper sphere of influence.

As things stand, concern over costs and accountability in education has led to a decline in or the total elimination of music and art in school curricular. This deficit is compounded by the current teaching-to-test thrust taking place in the classroom, further discouraging the cultivation of individual talents and unique capabilities.

Alternatively, consider instituting educational workshops designed to guide students of all ages through a process of greater self awareness, that is, greater attention to their individual strengths, talents, and cognitive learning patterns. Add to this an understanding of personal chemistry and personality differences; different leadership styles and how to gauge one’s own proclivity in this regard; and how to hone personal communication skills to communicate more effectively. For, the greater one’s personal insight, the more grounded that person is likely to be. He or she also will be better able to establish an edge and adapt to, as well as excel in, our rapidly changing and highly competitive environment.

Local organizations and church groups share in this responsibility and should take up the gauntlet, given their wide, shared and imbedded spheres of influence in their respective communities. They, and the community at large, stand to benefit from helping to re-empower the locals with a heightened sense of personal worth and ultimately a re-energized entrepreneurial spirit.

In effect, we would all benefit if there is a concerted and unified effort to bolster self-awareness, value individual differences, and foster the teamwork needed to succeed in our diverse and complex society.

Let us all work together to change how we think about diversity. Let’s work towards expanding the definition to include and celebrate individuality – in essence, diversity of the people, by the people and for the people. This enhanced view of diversity will help to change the quality and tenor of our increasingly cookie-cutter society and reverse the growing sense of personal alienation.

The Five Pillars of Diversity Success in the Workplace

Let’s start with the fact that diversity in the workplace is vital to bottom-line performance and long-term business success. The increasingly diverse nature of our society and our global economy make workplace diversity pivotal to understanding and targeting the domestic and international marketplace. This reality makes the case for viewing and pursuing diversity as a business strategy, and for establishing and managing a diversity program designed for optimum success.


According to John H. Stern, retired Sony Electronics Executive Vice President of Human Resources for American based business units, and currently a Distinguished Lecturer at the Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina:

“An understanding of diversity is a very important aspect of doing business in our global environment. It used to be that American companies were only concerned about diversity issues in the United States. Now-a-days, we are all in the global economy and diversity issues are compounded by global cultures, religions, races and languages. The best companies use managers of all races and ethnic backgrounds, from all over the world, and invest in having them understand how diversity will move the business forward. They create a competitive advantage by having an all inclusive environment that develops the best approaches that work with domestic but especially global customers.”

It should be noted, however, that a commitment to diversity is not enough. A diversity program is only as good as the model underlying its overall design. In essence, if the design is not well-considered and strategic in orientation, it will fall short on extended business success.

To formulate a winning diversity program, or to enhance an existing one, there must be a conceptual framework that incorporates the necessary elements, one that guides in the development of a strategic design.

Let us, therefore, consider the five pillars of this comprehensive workplace diversity model – what they are, how they fit into the big diversity picture, and what the implications are for effective workplace diversity management.

  1. Assurance from the Top – A genuine commitment to diversity must start with a buy-in from those in the upper echelon. Management must be knowledgeable about what it takes to insure the development of an effective diversity program. Otherwise, the outcome will be window-dressing and resonate as a PR ploy.

  2. A Holistic Approach – A successful diversity program represents a business opportunity for the company and, as such, should integrate workplace diversity with marketplace and supplier diversity initiatives. Supplier diversity is important because it provides greater access to the marketplace and innovations while providing an opportunity for enhanced brand recognition.

  3. Infrastructure Sustainability – Key sustainability measures must be in place to optimize and prolong internal diversity performance. These include:

    • Relevant Goals – Census data for the labor pool and niche market representation should guide hiring and promotion goals. Out-of-the-box recruiting efforts often are necessary to identify and attract a diverse mix of the brightest and best prospects.​

    • Talent Management – Leveraging talent is critical for building loyalty and meeting diversity promotion goals; it should be incorporated into the diversity plan to promote long-term program success. This is accomplished through mentoring as well as talent and leadership development programs, and via the implementation of a fair and equitable succession plan. To promote company-wide loyalty, these opportunities should not be reserved for recently hired personnel.

    • Assessment of Diversity Effectiveness – Diversity effectiveness starts with internal benchmarking to gauge progress along the way. Hiring, promotion and retention metrics should be tracked for business lines and divisions and for management, by category, for accountability purposes. Moreover, it is important to trend spending (e.g., costs for recruiting, marketing, advertising and community involvement) against the return on investment for ongoing metrics of the company’s performance and the program’s financial success.In addition, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of how employees feel about the company by indexing variables like sense of inclusiveness and engagement. Accordingly, employee research should be conducted with some regularity. For example, satisfaction surveys may be done annually or every two years. The results should be tracked back to individual business areas as a measure of management’s day-to-day commitment to diversity, and as another measure of accountability.

    • Prior to the design of the survey questionnaire, feedback should be elicited from employees qualitatively to insure that the right issues and priorities are being addressed and that the language is appropriate for and relevant to employees across the board. Moreover, post-survey employee conversations are often helpful in understanding the true meaning behind the survey results.

And don’t forget to check with consumers on how the company and individual brands are viewed versus expectations and how they are performing in the marketplace.

4. ​Employee Optimization – There are two ways to approach this goal. Consideration should be given to making diversity training mandatory, ideally for all employees but especially middle management. Second, guidelines should be set to encourage the formation of Employee Resource Groups, inviting members to participate in crucial diversity areas such as recruiting, marketing, and mentoring, to name a few.

5. Internal Messaging – Relevant and consistent internal messaging reduces the problems that stem from poor communication; it leverages the relationship between effective communication and motivation, helping to promote loyalty.

And who stands to benefit from this handy baseline diversity model? The list of potential beneficiaries is fairly broad.

Within the workplace, consider those in leadership positions who have made a commitment to diversity but could use direction on how to get started. Then there are those who are running diversity programs but with minimal success. In both instances, the model can serve as a basic roadmap providing the guidance needed to achieve the desired end goal.

During the planning stage, for example, consider the benefits of being thoroughly informed about what it takes to establish and effectively manage a diversity program before calling in large and expensive diversity management firms. And, what about the company that has a diversity program in place but continues to do poorly on employee satisfaction surveys and is hemorrhaging on retention rates? The key decision makers of such a company stand to benefit from having a handy framework to guide them through diversity program modifications.

Then there are those responsible for academic and recertification HR program development. Program participants should be exposed to more insight than just an understanding of the difference between Affirmative Action and Diversity. Future and current HR leaders should come away with a clear framework for achieving and sustaining diversity success.

And, of course, placement counselors and executive recruiters should be aware of this information. This would put them in a position to have meaningful conversations with prospects about diversity. The payoff would come from having their respective audiences realize that an understanding of diversity can provide guidance in the formulation of informed and relevant questions as they prepare for job interviews, and in gauging the pros and cons of proffered employment opportunities.

If you identify with any of these circumstances and see the benefits of having a simple guide to effective workplace diversity management, consider using these five pillars for diversity success as a handy reference piece.

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