As the new chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDO) at the department of commerce, I wanted to share my diversity story and some recent thoughts on the value proposition for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA).
Born in India, my family immigrated to the United States when I was five years old. I grew up in a community in south New Jersey, which at the time was not very diverse. I was either the only Indian child in my school, grade, or class and believe that my immigrant experience in many aspects shaped my values of DEIA. As I got older, I became fascinated by the parallels of the civil rights movement and tradition of non-violence in Indian independence; in particular as it related to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi and their ethical and moral arguments for DEIA.
When you weld the ethical and moral, as well as social, cultural, and business case arguments for DEIA, I think you get a powerful, multivalent management tool that is the proverbial right thing to do and the pragmatic smart thing to do. The research for DEIA is multifold: increased performance and productivity; enhanced creativity and innovation; improved morale and engagement; higher retention and lower attrition; access to top talent and a broader, deeper talent pool; and alignment with changing demographics and cultural value systems.
With that value proposition, what could be the counter-argument to diversity? One counter-argument is the US has always had a competitive, hierarchical work culture which has driven great economic success. We expect employees to work in teams but only one person from the team gets the promotion, gets to be supervisor, gets to be manager, or gets to be partner. We essentially have a zero-sum game. Or perhaps a negative-sum game.
As a reminder, a zero-sum game means that whatever one party gains, the other party loses. One party gets a larger share of the proverbial employment pie than the other. This is a worldview that is limited, linear and competitive. It is a win-lose paradigm. A negative-sum game is worse. It means that the total of gains and losses are less than zero. The only way for a party to maintain their status quo is take a share of the pie from the other party. In this scenario the world is seen as conflict-ridden and destructive, resulting in a lose-lose paradigm.
But is work really a zero-sum game or a negative-sum game? What if work were a positive-sum game? A positive-sum game means that both parties have gains. Both parties get a larger share of the pie because the size of the pie has expanded. This alternative illustrates a world that is infinite, divergent, and collaborative. It is a win-win paradigm.
If diversity improves productivity and spurs creativity, then the pie should expand, all parties should have larger shares of the pie, all parties have gains. Diversity is a management tool and strategy predicated upon a positive-sum game. Diversity is a win-win. Through collaboration, teamwork, inspiration and innovation, we can have progress, equity, and gains shared by all employees; and through the work we do at DOC all communities can get a fair share of the economic pie.
It’s hard to imagine that American ingenuity, work ethic, and teamwork could lead to a zero-sum or negative-sum outcome. Instead, I choose to believe in the positive mission of DOC to foster equitable and inclusive economic growth, exuberant job creation, tools for data-driven democracy, and ultimately its mission to make the American dream a reality, a positive-sum outcome ‒ a win-win.
Source: US Department of Commerce