Leadersip and the Diversity Continuum

EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) is the law, while diversity is more of a mindset. That is, with EEO, I cannot discriminate towards certain groups; however, I still might not tolerate these same groups. But when I start valuing diverse groups and cultures, I start moving along the diversity continuum.

 nazism       Archie Bunker   Martin Luther King

 Uniformity <------------------------> Diversity

 white supremacy                 John Griffin


Towards the non-diversity (uniformity) side of the continuum is racism, such as white supremacy and nazism. On the other end of the scale are people such as Martin Luther King and John Howard Griffin, who wrote Black Like Me.

Towards the middle are characters such as Archie Bunker, who was probably right smack dab in the middle of the continuum as he was continually being pushed and pulled by various forces from both sides, e.g., his wife Edith would try to pull him towards the diversity side, while his upbringing would push him in the opposite direction.

Since this continuum contains a wide variety of people, then development programs, such as education and training do help; however, depending upon the location that someone is initially located on the continuum, will determine the effectiveness of that development program for the person. There are many training and development programs that will help to move the center group towards the diversity side of the continuum. However, such programs will probably not move a person all the way towards the end of the diversity side (after all, it is a continuum). So instead of picturing diversity training as a one-shot affair that is done in hours or days, we need to picture diversity training as being continuous with the goal being to steadily move along the continuum. This means if someone is more towards the hate side of the continuum, such as a white supremacist, then it is going to take a greater initial push and a whole lot more than training, development, coaching, etc. to get him or her moving towards the diversity side of the continuum.

Group and Individual Locators

A white male might be straight, Jewish, sexually abused as a child, and a former P.O.W. Thus, a gay black female who had a happy childhood and was never in a war might not be able to fully understand him and vice-versa.

In addition, a gay man does not mean that he knows what all other gay men are going through; just as an old white man does not mean he knows what all other old white men are going through. This is because there are two major placements that show where a person is located on the diversity continuum:

  1. The group placement is composed of race, religion, cultural and other factors that place the person within a group. The group locator normally remains stable and it is only through great paradigm shifts that it moves up or down the continuum or scale. For example, the civil war changed both black and white group positions on the continuum. Later, the civil right movement again moved the positions.
  2. The individual locator is composed of a person's personal life experiences. So while a person might be black, which is a group locator, her personal life experiences that make her an individual determines her actual individual placement upon the continuum.

Thus, while we might be able to relate to others in general by sharing group locators, we can never fully relate to others because of the wide variety of individual differences. However, we can certainly learn and empathize with others due to the wide variety of trials and hardships that we have all faced and shared.

If we only limit diversity to certain “group placement” factors, then we start assuming that some groups have diversity and others do not — those that have it are in the right and those that do not have it are in the wrong. Yet, true diversity is on a continuum, so while everyone has various portions of it, no one has all of it. While a person's group placement tends to place him or her somewhere on the continuum (and continues to try to push or pull him or her across the continuum, it is the individual uniqueness of each person that gives diversity its greatest strength — the power for each individual to learn and grow, which in turn, allows him or her to determine their rightful position on the continuum.

Next Steps

This section is part of the page on Diversity

Next chapter: Change

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