When it comes to Hispanic associations and organizations, "diversity" has deep roots in civil rights affirmative action legislation that defined broad socioeconomic partnerships in terms of 'equal opportunity" and "nondiscriminatory business practices," which oft en resulted in exclusion. Over time, diversity has evolved into a concept similar to the way the corporate world views diversity.--.smart business.
"Diversity as we see it in a business context is ensuring that corporations and government agencies reflect the faces of their customers, employees and shareholders," Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), wrote in an e-mail interview. "It represents smart business."
In the corporate world, as HispanicBusiness magazine reported in its November issue, the view of diversity tends to be that having a diverse workforce is a means of growing market share and the bottom line.
USHCC, in general, appears to go along with this view, but the organization adds a deeper layer of understanding to its take on diversity.
"It is about gaining insights from your executives," Mr. Palomarez wrote, "from your suppliers, from your directors that are relevant to the world as it is today.--.and more importantly.--.how it will be tomorrow.
The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), spearheaded by President and CEO Carlos F. Orta, also looks at diversity in terms of the corporate world but with a slightly different perspective.
"As corporate America sets out to create shareholder value," the HACR website notes, "HACR will continue to be at the forefront in supporting corporations that make a commitment, do the work and produce favorable results relative to total Hispanic inclusion."
The website continues: "To ensure the continued support and patronage of the Hispanic community, a company should strive to employ Hispanics, contract with Hispanic-owned businesses, support Hispanic-serving organizations and utilize Hispanic talent to lead its operations in roughly the same proportions that Hispanic consumers support the company."
This statement harkens back to the ideas formulated under affirmative action initiatives. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), led by National Executive Director Brent A. Wilkes, uses those very words to describe some of its diversity efforts.
"LULAC supports equal opportunity for employment, promotion and contracting," according to its website, "and opposes discrimination of any form in the workplace and supports affirmative action as a set of positive steps that employers use to promote equal employment opportunities."
LULAC also makes an effort to have the federal government do a better job of hiring Hispanics, especially within the Census Bureau, which LULAC says has less than 6 percent Hispanics in its workforce. In the media, LULAC wants diversity in terms of increased Hispanic-oriented programming that provides "a positive and accurate portrayal of the cultural breadth of Latinos and their contributions to the United States," according to its website.
So while much of the efforts of USHCC, HACR and LULAC revolve around the same main goal, greater representation of Hispanics in the workforce, each has its own area of preferred efforts. Some overlap. Both USHCC and HACR want to see more Hispanics in the corporate boardroom. LULAC and USHCC want to see better inclusion of Hispanics in government and, as USHCC notes, in federal procurement.
As far as the terms "diversity" and "inclusion" go, Mr. Palomarez wrote that "the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference indeed."
"Diversity" can focus on the differences and uniqueness, he explained, while "inclusion" tends to imply making all feel welcome and important.
"Recognizing diversity is always going to be the first step in the process," Mr. Palomarez wrote, "but it must lead eventually to inclusion, so that we are not merely celebrating differences for their own sake, but rather considering world views (and business approaches) that are different from our own."
So a subtle difference exists between the way Hispanic associations and organizations see diversity and the way the corporate world sees it. At the same time, there is a third sector.--. academia.--.that concerns itself with diversity. When asked if USHCC, the corporate world and the academic world are on the same page when talking about diversity, Mr. Palomarez summed it up this way:
"Undoubtedly, there are a variety of thoughts and theories about diversity in America. What is important is that those institutions are addressing diversity as one of our country's strategic and competitive advantages, rather than a 'problem' or 'issue' to be solved."
Perhaps that is a new way of looking at "diversity." Whereas previous efforts to have a diverse workforce brought about programs that sought to correct historical patterns of injustices against minority groups.--.a "problem" to be solved or an "issue" to be addressed.--. "diversity" becomes a forward-thinking concept, one in which it is not imperative to employ a minority because he or she is a minority, but looking at the various differences people bring to provide new perspectives on dealing with public policy or marketplace strategies or developing the next generation of robotic rovers to explore Mars.
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