As a kid there were few subjects which caused more debate than these:
Batman or Superman?
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Yankees or Mets?
You had to choose one and defend it vehemently. There could never be a middle ground.
As an adult, I find the same applies to these:
Democrat or Republican?
Liberal or Conservative?
Yankees or Mets?
Depending who is in the room I am viewed as a Liberal-Conservative or a Conservative-Liberal. But always… always a Yankees fan! As Senior Director of Hispanic Initiatives at ESPN, I facilitate the collaboration of teams which sometimes may be at odds. It is crucial to listen to different points of view in order to identify the common ground.
When the so called “Google Manifesto” or memo came out, I wasn’t surprised by the lightning fast reaction to then-Google engineer James Damore’s 10-page document critical of the company’s diversity initiatives.
Progressives denounced Damore as a villain emblematic of the establishment bias issues in the tech industry. Conservatives hailed Damore as a hero; the victim of the zealous’ politically correct movement.
Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, said in a communication to staff, “…portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in the workplace.”
Damore has said multiple times that he is not a sexist and that management at Google “shamed and eventually fired him for his dissenting opinions.”
Whether Damore was wrongfully dismissed or Google rightfully exercised its right to terminate might be up for lawyers to debate, but what concerns me is how diversity and inclusion is being framed in this debate.
Pursuing diversity in the workplace is more complex than how it is often presented. That is to say, it involves more than sex, race, age and all that is visible. It’s also about the experiences and beliefs which define one’s identity, impacts decision making and actions. Company initiatives aimed at creating awareness about biases in order to nurture collaborative environments often fall short because they champion the disenfranchised and alienate the establishment. Any group, minority or majority alienated by the corporate culture is defiant.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are not the sole property of progressives who too often seek to right equality wrongs as if change in the workplace should be on the fast lane. And diversity and inclusion cannot be a maze of traffic barriers of conservatives who often try to suppress change and preserve tradition. There is enough room for both ideologies. In fact, it is necessary for them to co-exist. Homogeneity of any kind stunts a company’s ability to innovate. The exchange of different ideas give birth to dynamic results.
Majority employees who often feel excluded from diversity and inclusion activities perceive reverse favoritism and resist change. They feel they have to downplay their differences and conform to the company’s new ideological crusade.
Leaders need to encourage differences in order to facilitate authentic, candid conversations about workplace issues. That also means applauding debate: while not always pretty, it is important in getting a better understanding of an employee’s unique perspective and advancing critical thinking.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives only succeed when everyone is heard. I’ll always be a Yankees fan; there’s little debating 27 championships. But I do enjoy chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream cones.
Hugo Balta is the Senior Director of Hispanic Initiatives at ESPN; his work focuses on collaborative projects across platforms and networks focused on best serving U.S. Hispanics. He is on the business advisory board of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and is the former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). More articles like these on Straight Talk.