Diversity Is Important Except When It’s Not

I don’t know know when exactly I started using the “except when it’s not”. It started as a joke between my boyfriend and me. Since then we’ve found that it applies to lots of things like the subject of this post.

I just read Penelope Trunk’s blog post. It’s her annual rant about the Christmas holiday. I totally dug it and plan to read her more often! I found her on Twitter by the way, which is why I think it is vitally important that everyone who needs to market and sell products or services gets on board with these new technologies.

Penelope’s post was great because I think it illustrates something really important about diversity. People don’t get it. They do if it supports their view of the world. Otherwise, forget it.

Diversity is not a new topic. For more than 20 years, it’s been a visible piece of the business landscape, but many might say that how we talk about diversity and how we train employees to think about diversity is all wrong.

In Penelope’s post, she rightly calls attention to the fact that the Christmas holiday really does disenfranchise those people who are not Christian. For any Christian reading this post, please hear me when I say this…there are many people who are not Christian in our country or in our workplace. It’s time you get that through your head.

While I didn’t agree with Penelope that we should keep the office doors open for the smaller minority, I do agree with her overall argument. It is a national holiday after all, so there just aren’t going to be that many people heading to the office. In an age of “green”, it makes sense to turn off the utilities when the masses are not going to be there.

Here’s where I think she is right on. Why do folks who are Jewish or of any other faith have to give up one of their personal days or floating holidays if they want to enjoy their respective religious holiday?

Christians don’t have to give up personal vacation time to support their religion. That doesn’t seem right at all and certainly seems like discrimination to me. Yeah yeah – I know Christmas has been deemed a national holiday so spare me your comment and think beyond that. How would YOU feel if YOU had to give up a personal vacation day to observe the religious holiday important to you, but no one else had too?

Along the same lines is another scenario that bugged me for a long time while I was still working in corporate America. I didn’t (and still don’t) have children, and I always felt cheated, because I didn’t qualify for paternal leave.

In my company, when someone’s spouse had a child they could take 30 days off, while people like me had to cover for them. In fact, they were given up to a year to take it, so that sort of belies the myth that it’s being given as a way to help a couple deal with a newborn! My peers received their same pay and their job was waiting for them until they returned. Why didn’t I get a paid 30 day vacation? Seems to me that’s not treating everyone equally.

Diversity is becoming what I believe to be THE hot topic in the corporate world for 2009 and beyond, especially in light of our recent elections.

Somehow we have to get people to understand that there are all sorts of ways to view diversity and you can’t pay lip service to it by supporting some people and not others.

For the record, I am Christian.

Penelope – you go girl!

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