The village I grew up in was 100% Caucasian. As was every village in the county. Well, there was one black family in one of the villages. When I announced sympathy for the civil rights movement at somewhere around 1967, I took a bunch of grief.
I’m not sure when it dawned on me that driving through Mississippi on my way to graduate school in Louisiana with a civil rights decal on the car in 1970 was not a wise decision. I did live to tell about it, though.
Race and Gender
We have come a long way since the mid-60s. We have a black President, and we could have a woman President (at least a couple are serious contenders for 2016). But much work remains.
My dad quit attending the church he had been at for more than 50 years because they called a woman pastor. That was only 15 years ago. But even that barrier has been overcome in most churches. Just shows, we need to keep working to develop our sensitivities.
Manufacturing, especially engineering (manufacturing engineers, process engineers, chemical engineers, and the like), is still overwhelmingly a male domain.
That is changing, too. For at least the past 10 years, I’ve seen many women, younger people, and ethnic heritages at the engineering conferences I attend. This is a good thing.
That a diverse team is a stronger team is a fact becoming increasingly realized. Here is a report of a recent study confirming new points regarding team strengths due to assembling a diverse group.
The Website Big Think recently ran an article by Orion Jones, Sensitivity, Women, Sharing: What makes teams smart. Here is a partial quote:
When teams of professionals are composed of more women, share ideas in equal part, and are emotionally perceptive, they make better decisions and find better solutions to problems.
As part of an emerging science of effective teamwork, researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon University have been asking why some teams, like some individuals, are measurably smarter than others.
Scientists classify individual intelligence as general rather than specific. In other words, smarter people are smarter across the board. People with larger vocabularies, for example, also tend to be better at mathematics, even though we tend to think of those as distinct areas of intelligence.
Group intelligence is also general. Groups which performed better on tasks that involved logical analysis and brainstorming also did better on problems emphasizing coordination, planning and moral reasoning.
The smartest teams were distinguished by members which contributed more equally to the discussion, were better at reading complex emotional states in lab settings, and were composed of more women (possibly because women are better at identifying emotion).
These characteristics were also true of groups that corresponded online, either through live chatrooms, conference calls, or traditional email.
It is not only race, but gender, ethnic and geographic diversity that counts. Bringing together such a group that is focused on working together is going to yield better results.
In memory of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as pursuit of excellence, let’s continue building diversity into our team development.