Let’s get straight to the point: The workforce of the future is majority female, and a large proportion of the workforce of the future will be Latino.
Other groups are also contributing in meaningful ways, but any way you look at it, the labor force is changing—drastically.
It behooves ALL of us, therefore, to learn how to work with a variety of people and do it well.
I’m going to point out a few statistics that I’m familiar with, but it’s important to note that these numbers are simply to illustrate my message—it is important for us to take diversity seriously.
(There are lots of other groups that could be used in these examples, but I hope you’ll get the point.)
Diversity is not simply the right thing to do, or something that makes you feel good—diversity is the key to success in the workplace of the future. We will all have to work with a variety of people, many of whom are not like us. Why not learn these skill sets now—or build on the skills we already have and hone them as you go along.
I know I’ve got lots to learn. Let me give you some concrete reasons it’s imperative to learn these skills, and to keep learning.
Did you know that women make up the majority of the U.S. work force, and hold a majority of management positions?
Although still excluded from the highest echelons (women still represent only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and hold only 15% of board seats at major U.S. companies), the likelihood you will have—or already do have—a female boss is very high.
Studies have shown that high school girls in the U.S. earn higher GPAs than their male peers. Women now are getting college degrees at a greater frequency than men. The ratio is 3:2.
Women have not only caught up with men in college attendance, but younger women are now more likely than younger men to have a college or a master’s degree.
And the skill sets women bring to the workplace, such as emotional intelligence, are increasingly being studied and valued by elite business schools.
Another fact: the rate of growth in the Latino labor force exceeds that of any other group in the U.S. Latinos are the only group in the current U.S. labor market that continues to grow in a substantial way. In the future, Latinos will make up 25% of the workforce.
Companies are increasingly multi-national. The company you work for may either have offices, clients or both in multiple countries around the globe.
For all the above reasons and more, the skill sets brought by individuals who are used to moving in and out of more than one culture make a difference in a workplace.
The labor force is changing, and companies will need to change with it to keep up. A happy, productive workforce is a valuable one.
So if diversity is key, and it makes sense to have a workplace that truly meets the needs of diverse groups, how do companies do this?
One way is through employee resource groups. This support is not simply about having one day a year where the company puts on a luncheon or a breakfast — support is about assisting these groups is a meaningful way.
Smart companies that are looking at workforce numbers and understand what they mean have employee resource groups that, for example, help build skill sets, assist with networking/mentoring, and provide training and opportunities for advancement.
These same companies are training everyone to be prepared for what the workforce of the future will look like—and not just leaving it to members of a group to educate everyone else about that group.
These are just two of many possible examples of how to support diversity, once a company sees the value and imperative of doing so.
What efforts do you see in your workplace? Do you understand why diversity is so important? If so, what is the reason that resonates most with you? What diversity initiatives have you seen that work well? Which fall short of the mark?
Photograph: Diversity and Unity. Credit: Flickr member Frerieke.