One morning, as usual, I started my day with a cup of tea and newspaper -Financial Times. A front page story caught my attention; it was about a company I admired during my college days. The title of the story was “SIEMENS ‘TOO WHITE, GERMAN AND MALE”. Siemens’ top management is too German for its own good, as well as too white and male, according to its chief executive .
From my own experiences and education, I have seen how many organizations actively address this difficult issue. Indeed, some spend significant amounts of money on vast campaign programs that tout their efforts and claim. But, I believe that for shareholders the corporate diversity just based on color, nationality or gender does not mean much. They care about diversity in thought process that challenges status quo and enables innovation.
I was born and raised in India and came to United States in the late 90s to pursue better employment opportunities. After spending more than a decade outside of India and experiencing life as a corporate professional, a student, a neighbor and another guy walking down the street, I wonder what people mean when they use the word diversity. Is a company diverse just because it hires people of different color or different ethnicity, or is there something deeper to consider?
I believe that diversity transcends these obvious characteristics. I believe that when shareholders and customers talk about diversity in large corporations, they’re referring to a workforce that not only reflects a gender or racial balance, but also one that respects and stimulates unique ideas and a variety of thought processes.
Lets look at a very high level things that a person does on a job:- he/she thinks, communicates his/her opinion, questions other’s opinion, negotiates, reaches on agreement and then acts on the decision made. How far in this process, do you think diversity is alive? Do you think it works when we ask someone to just keep their thinking style unchanged but change everything else about them? And how diverse are they anyway after they adapt to majority culture?
I believe that the value for shareholder is created only when diversity is alive thru the whole process, from idea conception to its realization, and it comes only with a mindset change in each and every part of the organization. True diversity comes only when companies recognize the fact that they need to nurture an environment in which people are willing to make some adjustments in order to work with a person who not only looks different but speaks, questions or act differently. I believe that’s when we will maximize the shareholder value thru diverse workforce.