The Diversity Pyramid

Diversity is no longer just a vague concept; it is a fact of life and is here to stay. 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. 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 subgroups 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. 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.

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