Defining Diversity

Tuesday - 8/30/2011, 2:01am EDT

Most people probably know what they mean when they are talking about, or describing diversity. But is your definition the same as mine? What about your bosses' definition. Is everybody in your office or carpool on the same page on the subject of diversity.

The Obama administration is working on a major pre-election effort to improve diversity in federal agencies. On Aug. 21, the Washington Post reported that 160 Hispanic community leaders had been invited to a two-day open access session at the White House. Last Friday the Post had a Page one story headlined "White House Devotes New Attention To Blacks."

Last Tuesday's column drew a lot of public comments — posted on your website — and many, many more emailed directly to me. Some said improving diversity was a good idea. Others said it's a political action that could conflict with merit system principles. Several asked what diversity is? You may not agree, but it's interesting to know what other folks think: For example:

  • "Is the goal diversity or racial diversity?

    "In my corner of the world (1000 employees in my operation at my POD), we could easily pose for a Diversity Day poster. We are about equally divided between black and white, with more women than men, a few Asian-Pacific/Latino/Native Americans, and a fair number of people who are either in wheel chairs, visually-impaired or using ASL as their primary language. However, that only scratches the surface. We also have a minority of employees who are GLBT, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim and atheist. We have employees with invisible disabilities, such as immune disorders and mental illness. People who belong to these groups tend not to be vocal about who they are, especially here on the edge of the Bible Belt, where the predominate culture still sees even garden-variety depression as a character flaw or a lack of (Christian) faith or an excuse.

    "My agency plans to meet their diversity goal by asking disabled employees to self-identify. If they would extend the invitation to GLBT, minority religious and mentally ill employees as well, they could easily reach their goal." G.L. from the IRS

  • "So, what we're dealing with here is how to marry the conflicting policies of firing more of white males and at the same time hiring fewer white males and make it look all pretty and legal." Dave C.

  • "I worked 24 years for the government and it seems to me that this problem has already been solved. I think the real problem is that the goals shouldn't be diversity based on raw racial populations, but rather the populations of educationally qualified racial populations. This also goes for gender. For example, women make up 50% of the raw population, but if there are three times the number of male engineers as there are female engineers, the government should be satisfied if 25% of govt engineers were women - not 50%. The same goes for race - if there are 95 white engineers for five hispanic engineer in the work force, then the government should be satisfied if 5% of the government engineers are hispanic, even if hispanics are 20% of the population.

    "The government should be basing their hiring decisions more on merit than diversity, or the government is going to get in even worse shape than it already is in." Anon

Thoughts?


NEARY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The particular hue of school buses actually has a name: National School Bus Glossy Yellow, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Frank W. Cyr, an education professor at Columbia's Teachers College, was known as the "Father of the Yellow School Bus," after he proposed the first standards for school bus construction — including the memorable color — in 1939.


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