As many employers continue to develop an inclusive culture, it’s important to consider what diversity means to a multi-generational workforce, including the next generation of talent.
I asked Sam Hardeman, a high school senior who is currently interning with the DirectEmployers Foundation and is a previous participant in the Youth Enhancement Summer Program (STEM YES!), to reflect on what diversity means to him, and this was his response:
Since the fifties and the end of Jim Crow, the percentages of ethnic diversity in the workplace have grown exponentially, but the percentages are still very minuscule for corporate diversity, of any kind, in high paying industries; furthermore when you observe the numbers of our country you see that females make up 51 percent of the populous, according to the 2015 census. Although it seems logical with such a high percentage of females in the country that they would hold an equal percentage of the corporate jobs, this is not the case – and the numbers tend to dwindle even more in the tech industry. According to numbers released from Google and Apple in 2014, “Google employees are 70% male and 30% female. Google’s ethnicity data refers to US employees only, and indicates 61% white, 30% Asian, 4% identifying as two or more races, 3% Hispanic, 2% black, and 1% other” and “Apple’s diversity report indicates 80% male and 20% female. Apple’s US employees are 55% white, 15% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 7% Black, 2% as two or more races, 1% other.” So this begs the question, where are all of the corporate recruits? And where’s all of the diversity that we keep hearing about?
I would say that the diversity must be in the schools, but at my own prestigious Catholic school in Indianapolis, Indiana, the numbers of ethnic diversity aren’t any better. Although our school does demonstrate an almost unparalleled amount of intellectual diversity through dialogue between students and between teachers, we are still lacking all of the colors that make up our great nation.
Nearly 50 years after the death of Martin Luther King, people are still misunderstanding what his view on diversity meant. Diversity has become a way to describe the cultural or ethnic variety in an organization or group, but this definition paints a picture of collaboration and mutual growth that is not present in our world today. Webster’s Dictionary definition of diversity is, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization” and even this definition falls short of the significance we give the word when we use it in context. This is all true in society, however just like the definitions, we fall short because the inclusion and involvement between the different cultures or races ends here. There is no collaboration and when there are instances of exchanging principles or ideas, these conversations always evolve into arguments, with each side entrenched by the problems of past generations; thus hindering any societal or intellectual growth.
Even when we look to our schools to see the evidence of a brighter integrated future we are left with the same truth that has been self-evident all throughout American history. The problem is that people think that because they put a group of dogs and a group of cats together in a room they will settle their issues and come together as one. However, as seen in many institutions and workplace environments across the country, people refuse to put their own biases aside to grow. Even though most would say that the diversity must be in the schools, this is not the case; even at my own Jesuit high school, the numbers of ethnic diversity aren’t any better than the national average found in workplaces.
But my mother used to tell me, “stop complaining about all of the problems in the world and look for some solutions.” So we can continue to speculate about all of the problems surrounding diversity in our society, or we can use all of the knowledge we have been given from past generations in order to implement a solution. The solution has been right in front of us this whole time but we continue to miss it. We cannot hope for change if we do not actively want to change ourselves; and change begins and ends with each and every one of us.