Meaningful interest in diversity, inclusion, and equity have waxed and waned in the United States since the 1940s and probably much earlier. World War II saw women taking an active role in the workplace for the first time. In 1948, President Truman of signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces. Neither were particularly long lived or effective, but they were a start. (Check out a nice article by vsource at for more about the history of diversity in the US.) In the late 1990s and early 2000s, diversity initiatives became almost de rigueur in the world of organizations. Toward the end of 2000 decade, such initiatives had waned again. Strangely enough, a technological innovation, the cell phone with their cameras, gave light to the old phenomenon of young black men being murdered by white men—often police officers. As these murders became constant news, employees, as often as c-suite denizens, triggered a revival organizational commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Below you find an outline of the components of a diversity initiative design for the effort to no longer be an initiative, but a significant portion of an organization’s culture and way of being. The outline offers the components an organization needs to put in place to have a successful initiative and will trigger research into how to implement the different components.

An effective diversity initiative…

  1. Has the purpose of creating a systemic, organization-wide culture change that
    • Supports all employees to become fully engaged, productive, and satisfied regardless of differences of ethnicity, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, rank, job duties, personality, ideas, opinions, beliefs, or other differences that do not directly impact performance.
    • Eliminates the productivity lost when employees are hampered by inclusion difficulties from any of the differences listed above.
    • Embeds diversity awareness and the ability to work with and learn from differences into the daily work of the organization.
    • Enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of teams and meetings through increased ability to work with and learn from differences. 
    • Enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of the human systems that often mitigate the productivity and quality of the operational systems of the organization.
  2. Has a leadership cadre who actively supports the changes needed in speech, deed, policy, and other resources as needed.
  3. Shifts the prevailing win/lose power paradigm in which people use differences, such as race, gender, ethnicity, and rank, to determine who wins and who loses to one in which people use those same differences as a source of learning and synergy.
  4. Has being curious about differences and learning from differences as a fundamental strategy rather than being politically correct pretending that differences do not exist or are not important. Being okay with being uncomfortable and the discomfort of others is also fostered.
  5. Has a Diversity Council of 10 to 15 members who represent the diverse segments of the organization. Its purposes is to…
    • Learn from the differences existing in the Council so that it understands the dynamics of differences in the larger organization. External support may be useful here.
    • Develop and implement strategies and tactics to achieve the goals of the initiative based on its understanding of the dynamics of differences in the larger organization.
    • Develop metrics that monitor the progress of the strategies, tactics, and overall goals.
    • Loosely coordinating diversity activities throughout the organization. 
    • Develop metrics that monitor the progress of the strategies, tactics, and overall goals.
    • Loosely coordinating diversity activities throughout the organization. 
  6. Creates affinity networks which have the purpose of supporting the empowerment of their constituencies toward there fullest engagement, productivity, and satisfaction in order to counter the effects of internalized oppression.
  7. Creates a group of respected white males supporting diversity to…
    • Define the value of being a white male
    • Delineate the value that diversity can have to white males
    • Communicate same to other white males
  8. Has a small (2 to 4) diversity staff deeply skilled in and focused on being catalysts for systemic thinking, conscious use of self, conflict management, and learning from differences that reports to the CEO. A large diversity staff can be a signal of an initiative that is owned by such a staff, rather than by the entire organization. Experienced, external consultants can support small staff as they need additional expertise. The staff supports the CEO, the diversity council, the affinity groups, and other diversity-related structures in gaining the skill sets needed to create a culture that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
  9. Uses groups of diversity-doers and diversity champions to virally spread the values of diversity throughout the organization. The staff will train the diversity-doers to stimulate conversation about diversity and the value of being curious about differences. The diversity champions are more deeply trained to implement a wide range of local, but systemically oriented diversity projects throughout the enterprise. These do-ers and champions will help extend the reach of the culture change to all reaches of the organization.

Put these components in place with rigor, a penchant for learning, a strong sense of humor, and patience for maximum success. Enjoy!