By Trevor Wilson
“ We asked nearly 40 diversity pioneers to look into their crystal ball and tell us where the diversity movement was going in the next 15 years . . .”
In July 2007 the above sentence introduced the cover story of a special issue of this publication called the Pioneers of Diversity. Nearly 40 leading thinkers on diversity, collectively representing almost 1,000 years of experience, were each asked to write an essay on the state of the nation surrounding diversity.
The essay was to start with our explanation of where we thought diversity came from. Most of us acknowledged the source was the 1987 Hudson’s Institute Workforce 2000 study, which predicted that the North American workforce was going to become far more diverse because of the exiting of the baby boomers.
The second part of our essay was to answer the question “Where is diversity today?” Again, for the majority of us, the answer was very similar. Most of us indicated that while diversity started with great promise and we were all hopeful of the changes that it would make, we felt that at least over the past decade it had stalled, something I have referred to before as “diversity fatigue.”
The majority of the pioneers acknowledged that regardless of whatever success metric you use, not much had changed. The typical basic metrics, such as the representation of women and minorities in senior executive positions, was virtually the same. Catalyst acknowledges every year in their census that the number of women in senior executive positions is still nowhere close to parity. For example, women CEOs represent less than four percent of the Fortune 500 companies today. The Executive Leadership Council has pointed to the fact that the percentage of African Americans in senior executive positions has actually decreased over the past decade. The vast majority of Fortune 1000 corporations are still dominated by one demographic group, which some now call SWAMS (straight, white, able-bodied males).
The last question the pioneers were asked was “Where should diversity go now?” This is where there was virtually no alignment. Some of the pioneers said “Let’s scrap it, it is a failed experiment.” Some of the pioneers said “Let’s go back to the basics and embrace the tenants of equal opportunity and affirmative action.” I introduced the idea of human equity, a management strategy based on positive psychology, dedicated to optimizing the total human capital of all employees through talent differentiation strategies.
Five years after that special issue of Diversity Journal, I am convinced more than ever that this is the road to success. While I can’t guarantee this, I can guarantee staying on the same road will certainly lead to more mediocre results. As Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result.
In 1996 Trevor started TWI Inc. to specialize in the area of equity and diversity as a business issue. In the same year, Trevor published a highly acclaimed book titled Diversity at Work: The Business Case for Equity. The firm’s clients include some of the most progressive global employers. TWI’s Human Equity™ approach was instrumental in catapulting Coca-Cola’s South African division to the top-performing division worldwide.