Diversity of the Masses, for the Masses
Recently I had the honor of serving on jury duty. A rewarding aspect of the experience is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. It’s that “jury of one’s peers” part of the U.S. Constitution at work.
Visit a jury waiting room across the country and it’s a fair bet that those huddled masses yearning for more current editions of National Geographic and tastier vending-machine snacks will be remarkably diverse.
We vary in age, race, religion, gender, profession—any way you slice it. The only common thread may be that each one considers himself or herself to be just another “typical American.”
While civil rights laws are one reason for this diversity, another is that communities across the country—and around the world—are reshuffling their demographics to a stunning degree. This will have a profound impact on society and the workforce.
Here’s a snapshot of what’s to come:
- By 2042, the U.S. will be “majority-minority,” meaning more than half of the population will be from non-Caucasian ethnic groups.
- The percentage of people 65 and older will rise by 147 percent between 2000 and 2050.
- People nearing retirement and younger people who are just entering the job market will become the most entrepreneurial generations ever.
- Immigrant entrepreneurs will help drive a new wave of globalization.
What do these trends mean for business? Our colleagues, suppliers and customers will be drawn from an ever-widening pool of people who have not only different backgrounds but different points of view.
Like a number of Fortune 500 companies, FedEx supports and promotes diversity and
inclusion initiatives across our companies. These include programs for team members, suppliers and customers. Most recently, we have the honor of being named one of DiversityMBA Magazine’s top 50 companies for diversity leadership
A significant difference between corporate diversity programs as they were conceived decades ago and those today is the emphasis on diverse perspectives. It’s less about finding similarities among people than embracing the reality that we all bring something unique to the table.
David Buggs, diversity officer for FedEx Office, describes the evolution. If he’s got a problem that needs solving, he wants a room full of people who think differently from one another.
Why? People with similar mindsets get stumped at the same point in problem-solving.
Those with different mindsets still get stumped—but at different points in the process. Working together, they can coax and cajole one another toward a solution.
Sounds simple enough, right? But human nature being what it is we are drawn to those who think and act the way we do. It can be a challenge to break out of our normal routines and reach out across the aisle–or across the cubicle–to the person we don’t always agree with.
But often, these are the folks who can bring a fresh eye and a creative jolt to our own thoughts whenever we’re the ones who are stumped. In this challenging business environment, we can all use more perspective.
So introduce yourself to one or two colleagues whom you don’t usually see or talk to regularly. Break up your own routine and see what happens.
True diversity reaches beyond surface differences in say, gender or ethnicity, to include everyone who’s got something of value to contribute.
And when you think about it, that’s also how jurors reach a fair verdict.
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