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Embracing diversity unleashes potential… and home runs?


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“It is simple. Saying yes to diversity is saying yes to modernity, to opportunity, and to the very future of our country.” Those are the words of Canada’s Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, at a recent lunch sponsored by Toronto’s DiverseCity initiative.

She wasn’t talking about specifics: programs aimed at achieving proportional rates of ethnic employees or women, or incentives to businesses for hiring minorities and helping them advance. This was a Big Idea speech, but with consideration for the little guy. The message is: immigrants, visible and ethnic minorities, members of different religions, disabled persons, women—they are all here to stay, and they’re all part of Canada, and we ignore them at our own peril. We either support them or we fail, individually and collectively.

“For each time social exclusion closes a door, another door is opened to desolation, frustration and despair.”

By neglecting or ignoring any group, we risk dividing our country into smaller and smaller pieces, which will further prevent us from achieving consensus and succeeding—again, individually and collectively. Moreover, the Governor General noted, “When corporations are indifferent to this reality, criminal gangs are there to prey on alienated youths”.

Still, Jean did offer some general insight into the business case for workplace and boardroom diversity:

“Having people from diverse backgrounds in senior management positions can confer better access to lucrative local and international networks and markets.
“Maintaining a plurality of perspectives and life experiences in an organization can boost creative and innovative output.
“Employing a greater number of people from diverse backgrounds can help to raise the overall consumption power of a broader proportion of the Canadian population.”

Modernity, opportunity and the future of the country:

  • Modern thinking requires businesses and citizens to forget about race and gender and religion, or, maybe better yet, to see them as advantages—to embrace them, not to ignore them—and to forget the “‘everyone for himself and for his clan’ mentality” that Jean mentions.
  • Opportunity arises for businesses and individuals when the barriers crumble and no one stands in the way of anyone else’s advancement.
  • And the future of the country, well, we’re looking at it right now, I guess, and we have been for a long time: where would Canada be if we had prevented waves of past immigrants and minorities to climb the corporate ladder—Italians, Irish, French, African-Americans, Chinese and others. That these Canadians have succeeded as well as they have is testament to the forward-thinking of past generations of leaders.

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On a lighter note, here’s a real-life (if on a slightly different scale) example of the benefits of diversity hiring. Thanks to Tom Selleck, we all know that baseball is big in Japan, but it wasn’t big among Japanese-Americans until US major league teams started hiring Japanese players. A 2005 study on the topic found that, “Since Japanese baseball players began playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the mid-1990s, the popularity of MLB has been increasing in the Japanese market. This popularity has resulted in increased MLB TV ratings, sales of MLB licensed merchandise and sponsorships, and event business in Japan.”

When Hideo Nomo started pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, “Japanese media and fans appeared in large numbers in games he started”, and some enterprising folk have prepared tour packages for Japanese fans to fly to Seattle to watch star Ichiro Suzuki bat for the Mariners. And not only that, but those Japanese players are helping their teams perform and excel.

So what do you think of that?

Have you got a success story of an employee from a visible minority or any of the other affected groups mentioned? What challenges have you faced with diversity hiring?

Adam Gorley
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Adam Gorley

Adam Gorley is a copywriter, editor and researcher at First Reference. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks, Inside Internal Controls and other First Reference publications. He writes about general HR issues, accessibility, privacy, technology in the workplace, accommodation, violence and harassment, internal controls and more. Read more
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2 thoughts on “Embracing diversity unleashes potential… and home runs?
  • Adam Gorley says:

    Thanks for the comment Susan!

    I think you’re right that for various reasons many people at different levels of any company don’t approve of people who appear different from them.

    I guess it could take many years to truly eradicate negative opinions about people who don’t “fit the mold” (whatever that is). But I think it will happen eventually—maybe when we recognize that given the same opportunities, everyone is equally capable.

    It’s also great—even exciting—to know that your market-based hiring decisions have resulted in a diverse workplace!

  • Susan Trevers says:

    My employer has almost 50% visible minority and predominanty women staff. We do not have a policy to hire thay way but choose the best available candidates from the job market.
    But there are still many in the line and staff positions that do not tolerate individuals different from them. As a Supervisor, I have a constant struggle with this attitude until the ‘different’ has proven that he/she is as good as anyone else.