Periodically I plug the word diversity into Twitter search to see what comes up. I’ve found some great information that way. I’ve also found some things that gave me forehead wrinkles.
For instance, I saw this tweet:
leen @calucsonil diversity is amazing and representation is important but only when it’s SPONTANEOUS
I clicked on the bio info for this tweeter; the picture is distorted, but it looks like a white man. Here’s why that’s relevant. That white man has the luxury to wait on nebulous things like spontaneity. Women and minorities don’t. We literally don’t have enough life left to wait on spontaneity when the topic is gender parity.
I wracked my brain, and I couldn’t think of one single thing about workplace diversity and inclusion that was spontaneous – and positive. Complaints are spontaneous. So are demands, attacks, knee jerk policy changes and politically- or culturally-motivated arguments around the old water cooler. Are those things positive? Not so much.
But the reason spontaneity and workplace diversity are so mismatched is because spontaneity is fast, it’s relatively furious, and in its context change is easy, it’s expected, it’s desired. Workplace diversity, on the other hand, is the antithesis of change and speed. It’s a battle, a slow, often painful struggle that finds every living and dying excuse to maintain and sustain its present state: lack of money and/or resources, no time, no strategy, no bandwidth, no real desire…
So, no. Spontaneity is actually ridiculous when the related topic is workplace diversity. Today, given the societal, financial, psychological and cultural constraints in which we operate, diversity requires intention. It requires discipline and repeat, consistent, sustainable effort. Let’s reserve the spontaneity to celebrate those aha moments that crop up as a result of strategic diverse management.
And speaking of knee jerk policy changes, can I kvetch about the global gag rule for a minute? At its heart the central topic is abortion, not workplace diversity, but it’s relevant, trust me.
The global gag rule, which that person signed back into policy on Monday – I’ve made a vow to avoid speaking his name, but you know who he is; he’s living in former President Obama’s old house – prevents U.S. funded health care providers around the world from even talking about abortion as a segment of family planning. According to one article I read, “Trump’s reimagining of the gag rule is even more severe than the original prohibition devised by President Ronald Reagan, which was limited to clinics that provide family planning services. The Trump gag extends to any health care providers around the world ― which would cut an estimated $8.5 billion in aid.”
Obviously, this is terrible news for women and families everywhere. In the aforementioned article, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the “policy could have policy could have terrible consequences for women and families around the world. I started my career working at the World Bank on health care in India. I saw firsthand how clinics funded by foreign aid are often the only source of health care for women. When women are given even the most basic health care information and services, they live longer, healthier lives ― and they give birth to children who live longer, healthier lives.”
That’s major. But while healthcare or a lack thereof is undoubtedly important, for me the implications of the global gag rule aren’t just about denying family planning and other ancillary healthcare services that women need, deserve and want. It’s about exerting control over more than half of the population for reasons that have nothing to do with their well-being, and everything to do ensuring there is no shift in power and control.
What happens if women are denied these types of family planning services? Let’s say they all deliver healthy babies – no doubt that absolute has already sparked all sorts of pushback in your brain because absolutes tend to do that, but bear with me – and life and death is no longer a issue. These mamas stay home with their babies, right? That’s not so bad. Kids need mamas.
Now let’s unpack that a little bit more. In many countries, including the U.S., those mamas are young, really young, school age. Having children means you don’t go to school. No school means no job. No job means no salary. No salary means no economic freedom, authority, input or power.
You see where I’m going with this? One knee-jerk policy change has impact that reverberates throughout the global community from the home to the workplace to the lack of innovation and missed opportunities some women won’t be bringing into the workplace because they won’t be there. And that policy change wasn’t spontaneous.
Yes, I know the issue is far more complex than a few pithy sentences in a blog paragraph. I’m aware. Diversity and inclusion, or a lack of those things, are systemic issues woven into the infrastructure and fabric of society’s blood. Those issues are not new. They didn’t just crop up. Therefore, spontaneity or any discussion of something similar is completely irrelevant.
And what about the generational implications of that scenario I painted with all those young mothers trapped in a cycle of ill-educated, subservient poverty? Consider, once you take a privilege away – and yes, healthcare is a privilege – how long does it take to get it back? Four years maybe? It only takes nine months to make a baby, but once he or she is here, that’s a lifelong commitment. Mama didn’t go to school. She didn’t go to work. How hard will it be for her daughter or her daughter’s daughter to do those things?
Whether it’s a tweet, or the global gag rule, when push comes to shove, we women don’t have the time or the wherewithal to wait on the white, male patriarchy to determine what’s best for the course of our global lives. If women are occupied having babies and struggling with preventable female illnesses, there will be no school. Certainly there will be no advanced-level schooling, which is now a requirement for success in our knowledge-worker-driven global marketplace.
No. Women don’t have time to wait or hope for spontaneous acts of diversity. No innovation-savvy workplace does either.