Photo by Fady Habib via Creative Commons

What Diversity Actually Means

When people talk about diversity, they tend to focus on women and racial minorities.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine on Facebook posted this Fortune article: “American Express: Charging ahead on diversity.”

It briefly mentions American Express’s efforts to increase the number of racial minorities, veterans and LGBT people in its workforce. But AmEx has only found “success” in increasing the number of women in leadership positions.

Meanwhile, behemoth chip maker Intel announced at CES this year that it’s committing $300 million to increase the number of women, blacks, Hispanics and other groups at Intel by at least 14%.

Now don’t get me wrong, what AmEx and Intel are doing is great, but they — and most tech companies in Silicon Valley — could do much better. All companies have to start somewhere and change isn’t going to happen overnight. But it’s important that we don’t lose sight of what diversity really means.

Diversity refers to more than just basic demographics. It’s also about age, sexual orientation and preferences, marital status, disabilities, socio-economic status, religion, and even height and weight.

In order to actually achieve a diverse workforce, companies need to:

  1. Define what diversity means to them and what that would look like in their organization
  2. Implement metrics to measure their success

Thankfully, there’s at least one company already working on solving this problem, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s called Paradigm, founded by Joelle Emerson and Kelli Newman.