MORE THAN A decade ago, I met an executive for lunch at a business club in a wealthy U.S. suburb. As we entered the club, the conversations grew oddly hushed. Heads turned sharply. Diners shot glares at me, as if I were a street person.
The brusque maitre d’ looked blankly through me, as if I was invisible, while warmly greeting my lunch partner. My face flushed.
Clearly, dark-skinned folks – even a tax-paying, God-fearing American in a business suit who spoke perfect English – were not welcome there. How would the club members have reacted if I had a “foreign” accent? Women barred from all-male private clubs, or white males targeted by anti-foreigner sentiment while travelling abroad, know the feeling.
Luckily, times have changed in much of the United States, which is still the world’s model for business and cultural diversity. Today, a new global business and workplace diversity is dramatically changing the corporate world here and rippling overseas to modern and emerging countries alike.
Traditionally, the diversity practices of U.S. companies focused mostly on legal compliance and federally-required hiring data – a product of the civil rights era. The result? A more diverse workforce in the United States. But as the pace of globalization quickens, more U.S. and global business leaders – AT&T, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems, Unilever, Renault-Nissan, American Express and others – are raising diversity to a higher level than ever before and broadly redefining the concept.
Rosalind Hudnell, corporate director of diversity for Intel, calls it 'the new calculus of diversity' in an interview, while Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and others describe it as a new global mindset.