Sunday, March 4, 2007

Diversity: The Diversity Statements

For each of these diversity statements this week, I'll discuss what I see as positive points and questionable points about each. In so doing, my key views about diversity statements, policy, and reality will emerge. Because I'm going to work in libraries, I suppose I should announce up front that I'll be biased toward statements about diversity that reflect the organization's role as a:

-service institution
-socially conscious organization
-building block of a field that currently is lagging in various forms of diversity.

IBM Australia and New Zealand

Good Things
The IBM diversity policy includes proactive things the organization is doing to encourage not only the existence of diversity, but for their employees to feel supported by other "like" individuals. I am impressed by the outward level of commitment to sexual-orientation and gender diversity, and the existence of groups that promote networking and social interaction between LGBT groups. The existence of Diversity Networking events seems good in theory. The use of an "ethical belief" category for their hiring practices is interesting, and really could fit well into a non-discrimination statement used in the U.S.A. right now, especially with so many of us falling into political "camps."

"People of different cultural backgrounds" sounds like a very questionable networking group; is this the catch-all category for people who are not white/caucasian? I also have to ask what distinguishes a "diversity networking event" from a regular networking event...the scenarios that present themselves off of the top of my head are none too pleasing, especially if they become sort of underrepresented-hodge-podge activities. Even as a member of relatively few if any groups that are usually considered underrepresented, I have to argue that it seems unlikely that exactly the same overarching program really has the same relevance for LGBT groups and racial minorities; these groups' experiences, frustrations, and needs as a result of their particularity will probably require different types of programming. I'm not sure whether big diversity mixers are the right move.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Good Things
RBS' policy focuses on the negative aspects of discrimination and harassment more than the positive aspects of diversity. This can be a good thing in a way, because instead of trying to show how they put out "warm fuzzies" into the world, RBS seems to argue that it is their responsibility in a nearly-legal way to implement the policies of reducing harassment and increasing equal opportunity within a meritocratic system. It's interesting that the same language from the beginning of their diversity policy mirrors the ANTI-affirmative action referendum that was passed in Michigan, essentially stating that we should hang together and be evaluated "irrespective of" our differences. While this doesn't match my views on diversity or identity much at all, I admit that in employment and hiring a strong, real policy against discrimination can make an impact on corporate culture. The inclusion of specific guidelines for interviewing are very relevant, as we discussed in this class earlier.

I may have already arrived here, but I wonder what the company is doing beyond removing barriers and railing against discrimination. It's interesting that in the final statement RBS admits particularity and difference between organizational components, but doesn't seem to make any mention of the value of particularity and different perspectives within organizational components that can be achieved through proactively increasing representation from various groups and diversity of perspectives.

St. Mary's Health Care

Good Things
St. Mary's really seems to focus on diversity as a positive organizational aspect, and go well beyond non-discrimination. Requiring measurability and accountability in implementation is good, even if measuring anything regarding diversity of perspectives is really, really difficult. Creating the status of Diversity Champion for managers, and not for "diverse" individuals (as is so often done with library fellowship programs) is a very positive step toward saying that organizational leaders can make a direct difference in increasing diversity and celebrating it. Moving beyond affirmative action is probably useful too; though I do wish there were more specific hiring guidelines. I like the initial statement's multifaceted approach; diversity affects patients and even vendors, which was a pleasantly surprising subject for diversity goals.

Should the health care company provide more guidelines to its specific units in terms of what kinds of diversity programs should be tried? Better examples seem relevant here.

The University of Chicago

The Good
A university should appreciate its multifaceted organizational nature, and this diversity statement does that well. The statement moves from students through faculty and staff to the broader community, and notes that the resources around the university can be a valuable asset to the university. Wonderful language here: "Homogeneity perpetuates unchallenged assumptions..." "more than just a moral good..." I'm impressed with the appreciation for the value of the different aspects of diversity that are included here, even if the "minorities" that are identified seem to be fairly limited to the very traditional race/ethnic and gender categories.

Does an organization of this scope need more definition in terms of what will be done next? I'd like to see more clear-cut, specific goals. These don't necessarily need to be quantifiable. I also wish there were more here in terms of specific programs and goals than just assessments of where we are now and the immediate future. The statement speaks well beyond our current time frame and the current state of the organization, but many of the identified programs and challenges are quite immediate. I'd like to see the university give more definition to its "higher aspirations" that it speaks of.

Tippecanoe Public Library

Good Things
This represents an attempt by a small public library system in a rural area to think about one aspect of diversity. That they spent time on this is good and helpful, and that there is such a direct statement of what their goals are is even better. This is at least a multifaceted statement (including collections and staffing and beyond) in support of "ethnic" populations in various ways, whatever they mean by that word.

The use of the term "ethnic" here is fraught with trouble; everyone has some ethnicity and background, so the vocabulary used seems to reveal a bit of presumably unintentional ignorance about ethnicity. This diversity statement does not in any way go beyond "ethnicity," and no real definition of ethnicity is given. There are no clear-cut objectives as much as sweeping statements.

Taft Museum of Art

Good Things
I'm glad that Taft focuses on diversity as a positive component, and they seem to identify "uniqueness" as a value rather than an obstacle that might need to be overcome through non-discrimination practices. This is a succinct statement of what the organization values, or says that it values.

The issues I have here relate primarily to incompleteness; I see little that the organization is actually going to do in any proactive way. Perhaps more troubling is the utter lack of any kind of definition of what diversity is or means, though this is somewhat understandable especially if the organization's members are in any way appreciative of how tricky a concept diversity can often be. I'd like to see more beyond this statement, but it is a concise initial statement that I'd be happy to publish for my own organization.

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