When you focus on specific populations, you are bound to exclude others.
Many companies have employees or committees whose function is to promote diversity — in hiring, in promoting, in the company culture. While Pepsico on its website defines diversity rather nicely as “all the unique characteristics that make up each of us: personality, lifestyle, thought processes, work experience, ethnicity, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, disability, veteran status or other differences,” its activities are geared only towards select groups and activities, i.e., growing women leaders, hiring veterans, offering equal opportunities for disabled (one country does much for the deaf for instance). In their legal offices, they measure the number of employees who are minorities (ethnic/racial), LGBT and women, so they can measure progress.
Similarly, McKinsey & Company notes that their policies and culture are geared towards inclusivity, but the site only notes that specific initiatives exist for “women, members of the LGBTQ community, colleagues from minority ethnic groups, parents of special-needs children, and colleagues with disabilities.”
One online publication, Profiles in Diversity Journal, features pieces that are about vets, women, disabled and LGBT. It also has a profiles section dedicated to four categories: Women, Asian, Black, Hispanic. These are very specific.
My problem with this is two-fold. When you name groups, you create an atmosphere which, to me, reinforces the concept I’ve written about before — that there is a default group and then there is the rest, those for whom allowances are made. To be brutally honest, this is how the world we live in operates. And while this is the true and harsh rationale behind these initiatives, something tells me there has to be a better way.
The second issue is that when we name specific groups to be included in diversity initiatives and pay specific attention to them, we not only exclude other groups, but we inevitably preempt ourselves from taking in the larger picture of actual inclusiveness. As the Harvard Business Review points out in its article, Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion. It’s easy to measure headcounts, quite another to actually know if everyone feels a part of the team.
What I found in my completely unscientific and anecdotal research is that most companies and non-profits seem to focus on primarily on women, LGBT, people of color or ethnic minorities.
When I was in college, one of my English professors, Helen Regueiro Elam, made a point that has stuck with me ever since. We were talking about limits and limitlessness, about time and space and the universe, in the context of literary tradition and the continuum from Homer to Virgil to Dante to Milton. Professor Elam explained that even words that were purportedly without limits, by definition were limited. Infinity, she said, when used to describe space was, by its very nature, preempting us from thinking about other dimensions beyond spatial. Recent headlines on a hint of a newly-discovered fourth dimension notwithstanding, what if there were other dimensions?
Where am I going with this?
I think Jews are not taken into consideration. On the one hand, we feel part of everything enough to not need initiatives, but on the other hand, we are not. When companies’ team building committees put together employee outings or management arranges for town hall meetings, when local political groups plan galas or schools schedule big games, tests, concerts, and other events, it would be nice to not see them scheduled on the High Holidays. No bake sales during Passover either, please. It would also be nice if management companies decorating office buildings in December remember that Christmas is not the only seasonal holiday. Could you imagine if sensitivity training included teaching employees how to recognize and refrain from using slurs? (Yes, phrases like “Jew it down” are still heard in the South.)
Each of these examples comes to mind because my children or I have experienced each and every one of them here in Atlanta. We’ve also attended winter showcases, where the chorus did sing one Jewish song, but every other one on the program was about Christmas. As I wrote when I blogged about Chanukah, as “I thought about the children up on the stage who were Muslim, Hindu, Jewish [I had to wonder] how they felt.”
If a diversity effort is focused on minorities or people of color, it may cover the spectrum of black and brown nationalities and ethnicities. If they are covering nationalities, then that may also cover blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians and Middle- Eastern, etc.
But unless these efforts also include religious minorities, then Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews as well as other religious minorities – and their calendars – will never be taken into consideration.
So, while Jews, a minority, are not taken into consideration when it comes to Diversity efforts, it would be nice to be remembered when events are scheduled. Inclusivity efforts must focus on including all. Because when they focus only on specific groups, these inclusion efforts are, by definition, exclusionary.
And that’s a pity.