The Transformative Power of Diversity and Inclusion
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
The industrial revolution of the late 1700s through the mid-1800s was a significant inflection point in human history and exposing the truth that the world comprised far more than one’s own immediate vicinity, geographic sphere and locale, race and ethnicity. In fact, prior to the industrial revolution, untold number of people the world-over lived their entire lives within a 50 mile radius of their place of birth without any knowledge of the world beyond their own close vicinity. Unlike Christopher Columbus, they did not embark upon the high seas searching for “new worlds.” With the advent of transportation, namely trains, planes and automobiles, suddenly the globe could be traversed with relative ease and speed. This development facilitated the introduction of various parts of the globe and its population to each other which further paved the way for international commerce, exchange of ideas on how to collaborate on trade, proliferation of science, and large cross cultural migration from continents to continents. Once homogeneous societies were now being exposed to the outside world via the presence of the foreign based companies and their work force in their native land. In third world homogeneous societies, diversity was embraced, and foreigners were included in the fabric of the native cultures and enormous benefits accrued to both the host countries and the ex-patriots that worked to develop the host nations.
The impact of the creation of the internet was the instant connection that was made possible between people living in vastly different geographical areas. With a push of the “send” button on one’s electronic device, a person residing in the United States could connect in an instant with a person in Guam or Australia – a distance of 9,000 miles and a 24 hour sojourn by aviation. A common axiom that is often used is that the invention of the internet rendered the world into a “global village.” The effect of this REVOLUTIONARY occurrence was that geographical and often artificial borders that were established between countries in different parts of the globe were no longer relevant for the internet and social media now connected the globe electronically, such as the borders of the middle eastern countries that were drawn by the British after WWI or WWII, notably in India and Pakistan and Kashmir. Whereas the industrial revolution introduced different societies to each other via transportation, the advent of the internet and social media made possible the instant connection of virtually all sectors and populations of the world through technology. The consequence of this magnanimous invention was the formation of the concept of globalization. Said concept allowed instant exposure and exchange of ideas between all sectors of global business, industry and academia. The internet displayed and exposed the diverse sectors of society and how each society, though diverse in its cultural norms and nuances, had the potential to offer significant advantages to other cultures and societies. For example, when a catastrophic earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti in 2010, over 100 different countries with vastly different cultures and ethnicities rushed to provide financial aid to assist in rebuilding the country. Within minutes of the occurrence of the earthquake, the internet made possible the undertaking of such an endeavor and showed our interconnectedness as a human race despite our superficial diverse genetic and biological make up.
Historically, diversity and inclusion has not been valued and given its due credit for the myriad of benefits it can bring to any commercial entity. However, with the globalization of the world of commerce, the import of diversity and inclusion is becoming increasingly palpable. With this background in mind, this author proposes the necessity of thinking “outside the box” and embracing diversity of different cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds for the world of commerce, healthcare, academia, multi-national global companies, and even the world of sports. Why is the embracing of diversity and inclusion and implementing it into the very fiber of a company is a transformative event? Empirical data shows that a diverse work force that includes all voices of different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender and socio-economic vagaries, all can contribute to the trajectory of a company from commencing as a mere start-up to a global behemoth. To illustrate this point, Uber has made a very concerted effort to ensure all the voices of its global work force is heard and respected. They have innovatively created communities within the Uber work force to support the diverse groups within Uber that make Uber great, such as communities for Black employees, a community for employees who are immigrants, for women, an Asian community, a community for caregivers and employees living with disabilities, and an Inter-faith community for people of various spiritual beliefs and cultures. It is this climate of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging that has transformed Uber from a mere ride-sharing start-up company based in San Francisco to a global enterprise worth in excess of $50 Billion dollars in market capitalization. It is patently obvious that its core philosophy of investing in its own work force is reaping outsized rewards and will continue to do so as long as it maintains its culture of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging.
Diversity in our culture and society is irreversible, and companies who do not embrace it are missing an opportunity and short-changing themselves. It is imperative to look to those companies who stand out as leaders in the field of diversity as examples. The table must be set for all to participate, where the voice of each group is represented, heard and validated.