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That Simple, Complex, Wonderful World Of Diversity

During a recent discussion with prospective clients on the topic of diversity, after sharing my perspectives on the components necessary to fully engage a positive change in culture; the individuals responded that they just weren’t aware that diversity could be such, a complex challenge.

As I shared with them and you today, the concept of embracing, respecting diverse ideas and of course people is of the simplest principle; the complexity is to implement the ideals in our society. We do live today where opportunities have been extended to people of race, creed, and color more than any other time in history. Yet despite these advancements, the pendulum of the scales of progress is far from being at calibrated levels of acceptance.

The challenges that women have endured to break through “the glass ceiling” is well documented and again, the playing field remains imbalanced; add the element of color to the equation – (in a Joe Pesci’s sounding voice) “forget about it.”

This year a Latina was selected as the new CEO of a major utility; a former employer of mine. I was asked how I felt to have a fellow Hispanic be appointed to such, a high profile position. My response was I admired the fact a women of color had achieved and likely well deserved such an opportunity, but as far as culturally, well I’m not sure if I felt connected. This person is of Cuban heritage and I am proud of my Hispanic ethnicity. specifically as a Mexican-American.

In the United States, Mexican Americans represent approximately 66% of the entire Hispanic population in this country. Cuban Americans represent less than 5% of the US Hispanic population, perhaps so you can distinguish my disconnect. Five years ago, this same company boasted having three (3)Hispanic senior vice presidents (two Cuban American and one Portuguese) so again, with the prominent Hispanic employee base being Mexican-American the utility struggled understanding how this accomplishment was not over-whelming admired by their Hispanic employee base – Ahh so simple, so complex.

Externally, company marketing strategies have struggled to reach diverse audiences. I recall in the early 90’s as a manager for an outreach project being advised to support my efforts in reaching the Asian market segment, Japanese translated materials would be available. However, the predominant Asian segments in my community were of Vietnamese and Cambodian descent, so unless these customers knew someone who read Japanese these resources were worthless. Corporations have a tendency to categorize diversity in the following ethnic segments: Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American. And companies expect their customers to embrace these same categoric columns. When it comes to Hispanic and Asian customers, there exist major differences between Brazilians and Dominicans; Chinese and Filipinos; and on, and on.

Life is like a Salad Bar…

I love to dip into analogies, so here’s one to simplify the current predicaments. If you went to a restaurant with a salad bar, one would expect a variety of produce selections. So you as you begin to serve yourself, the only available menu items were broccoli, olives, and croutons. If I transposed my produce example to represent the Hispanic market, this salad bar offered no lettuce (those of Mexican descent), nor tomatoes (those of Puerto Rican descent – the second largest Hispanic segment); yet through the non-diverse eyes of the restaurant (corporation), they were pleased in meeting the salad ingredient criteria in offering a salad product – as they did their job!

Now for a Spoonful more of Complexity….

Today many families including mine have become multi-cultured and that has placed a wrench into traditional ethnic marketing. It’s almost ridiculous how our society sabotages our natural tendency to embrace everyone. At our family events when the children, grandchildren meet with their cousins who represent a kaleidoscope of culture; the purity in embracing diversity evolves unconsciously. They are cousins first, and differences are non-existent; they are proud of their multi-culture heritage.

However these new representatives of diversity will impact, and demand changes to opportunities and how corporations, especially utilities and government entities respond and adhere to mandated policies, like supplier diversity and/or career advancement.

Isn’t it all so simple, yet we make it so complex. You’ll likely now have a tendency to look at a salad bar differently. Thanks for reading!

Al "Skip" Solorzano
Al "Skip" Solorzano
SKIP is a recognized expert in the field of diversity with keen ability to build strategic alliances, and successfully expand supplier diversity initiatives. He has consulted with multiple client sectors including pharmaceutical, insurance, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, utilities nonprofit organizations, business entities and employee groups. As a facilitator and learning consultant presents unique perspectives to develop solutions; and promote qualities to successfully work with others through diversity, team-building and leadership development. Solorzano has been featured as a presenter at conferences sponsored by such entities as: AT&T, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Social Security Administration. A former Governor appointee and member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Solorzano has been recognized by United Way as Most Influential Hispanics of the Bay Area; and a recipient of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Corporate Advocate of the Year award. Skip’s career endeavors as a corporate liaison, community leader and entrepreneur, provides the unique insight to write on an array of subject matter from learning processes; diversity; with a shared humorous perspective of life.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I often analyze the impact of diversity to business performance. If the company has a solid core of principles and a consistent philosophy that takes little to no effort to support — diversity works really well. But the moment you need to have those meetings, that diversity training, those communications to promote workplace diversity — then diversity erodes away from business performance.

    Diversity on it’s own doesn’t help a company financially. It’s when the diversity supports the core principles of a company is when diversity really works and makes companies profitable.

    Just like anything, people see diversity in a successful company and they say that is what made the company profitable. The same sort of misconceptions have been said about technology, certifications, and styles of leadership. And this isn’t going to stop any time soon.

    • If not advocated despite being the eligible minority white male dominate some workforces like Silicon Valley. Women, women and people of color will always need to put up the good fight. We just want a piece of the pie

      • But to do so, companies need to first stay in business. And this means there are some hard truths that need examining. If a company needs to constantly invest a lot of time and effort to maintain a culture, it usually means those working in the company have the wrong culture. If this doesn’t change, the company will rot and may go bankrupt.

        To establish a diverse talent pool you have to take ensure those being hired support the culture that will support business performance. Doing this solves a lot of problems and will get the right people in. Also, it will allow minorities to progress up the ranks and be strong and profitable contributors. Another factor is the customer base for the company.

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