Politics & Diversity – Pt I

Written by James O. Rodgers

DNC Day 1

The first thing that struck me about the convention was the DNC’s summary of the diversity of the delegates. On every newscast covering the convention, it was noted that:

24% of delegates are African American.
12% of delegates are Latino/Hispanic
6% of delegates are gay/lesbian
4% of delegates have physical disabilities.
17% of delegates are 36 or younger
12% of delegates are 65 or older
49% of delegates are men
etc.

The report is one thing. Reality is another. So, I was careful to “observe” that the optics of the convention actually matched the statistics that were being proffered. There is a message here. And, it is not that the Democrats are unusually progressive. It is that diversity is, as I have predicted for twenty years, becoming an ever-increasing fact of national life. And the trend is not about to reverse itself.

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We have lamented over and again that the face of leadership, politics, business, and other institutions does not reflect the actual makeup of our population. Even at the convention, the majority of the key speakers in prime time were still White men, (Clinton and Obama being the notable exceptions). But, if leadership evolves from the ranks of the institution, the above statistics clearly indicates that the old order cannot long endure. This is a microcosm of our society. What caused the diversity mix to be so broad at the DNC? Was there a deliberate effort on their part to recruit a more diverse mix? Or, is it that the natural order of things produced this mix of elected delegates and the DNC simply had to say, “sure, come on in. You can play”.

I continue to advise my clients that traditional diversity (minority recruitment, image, workforce profile, etc.) is not worthy of their time, attention, and investment. In fact, I said to some of my consulting colleagues recently, any organization would have to work extra hard to keep increasing diversity from sprouting up. (of course, there are some who have chosen to do that hard work, but their days are numbered if they keep it up). The bigger challenge is what I call diversity management. When talent shows up in different packaging, will organizations be willing to say, like the DNC, “sure, you can play. Come on in”

Again, we will see that necessity and evolution will produce change that never yielded to entreaty (translation, don’t force the mix, let it evolve naturally. But be prepared to welcome it when it comes).

America will never return to the days when white, non-Hispanic, heterosexual, able-bodied men will dominate the numbers or the agenda. Some may lament that fact and try to resist the inevitable. Of course, the healthier response would be to “get use to it”.