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ATD Blog

Who Are We Talking About When We Talk About Diversity?

Friday, March 26, 2021

In this four-part blog series, thought leaders Rita Bailey, Elaine Biech, and Tonya Wilson offer advice on driving DE&I initiatives forward at your organization. Read the first blog post on getting buy-in on DE&I initiatives here and the second post on helping leaders define their commitment to DE&I here.

Each of us has a unique way of looking at the world. We have diverse perspectives and viewpoints. Diversity can be defined as the presence of differences in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, disability or ability, age, religious commitment, even, to some extent, political perspective. By definition, we are all diverse in our own unique ways.

Even though we are all unique, that uniqueness is not necessarily associated with being underrepresented or marginalized. Just because we have differences and bring differences, it doesn’t mean that those differences have in the past caused an individual to be treated differently based on whether that perceived difference was greater than, less than, or equal to another person’s differences. We’re all different, but for some of us, those differences have been used historically to create a disadvantage, limitation, or marginalization.

In the past 12 months, many of the conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion have been focused on race. That’s because of the many things that have happened within our country that didn’t begin in 2020—but 2020 was an inflection point. That inflection point brought us to a place where we have to have real conversations and look at opportunities to positively influence things that have not worked for a long time. Many DE&I initiatives were formulated as a result of, or influenced by, institutional racism.


There are also differences between aspects of identity that can be changed and ones that can’t. For example, immigration is a very politically charged issue, but citizenship status is an aspect of diversity that is more status oriented than about who someone is as a person. Even after an immigrant becomes a US citizen, they may still be treated differently or singled out because of their race, ethnicity, or culture. It’s important to distinguish between diversity as it relates to things that cannot be changed, like race and culture, versus things that could be change, such as immigration status.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” Regardless of whether you were mistreated or diminished in some way because of the color of your skin or for any other reason, that’s important to address. Diversity covers so many areas.

About the Author

As CEO and Founder of QVF Partners, Rita partners with organizations and individuals who want to transform ordinary work environments into high-performing, profitable cultures. She shares her expertise and resources to help create workplaces where enlightened leaders can leverage the strengths and diversity of their people as a competitive advantage. During her 25 year career at Southwest Airlines, Rita served in several roles including customer service, sales, marketing, public relations, and HR. In her last position she was director of the Southwest Airlines University for People. She was responsible for the design, development, and implementation of leadership and personal development programs for over 32,000 employees. She also established a career development services team, responsible for helping employees develop a career path. Rita has served on several advisory committees and boards and was a member of the ASTD Board of Directors, serving as chairwoman of the ASTD Board in 2005. She is often quoted in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Corporate Meetings and Incentives, and The Wall Street Journal on topics of recruiting and training practices. Rita is the co-author of the new book, Destination Profit: Creating People-Profit Opportunities in Your Organization. As an international speaker and consultant, she has presented to and worked with groups in Europe, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Japan on topics including organizational culture, people strategies, leadership, innovation, customer service, and branding. When asked what business she is in, the answer is simply "the people business."

About the Author

Elaine Biech, president of ebb associates inc, a strategic implementation, leadership development, and experiential learning consulting firm, has been in the field for 30 years helping organizations work through large-scale change. She has presented at dozens of national and international conferences and has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Management Update, Investors Business Daily, and Fortune Magazine. She is the author and editor of over 50 books, including the ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals, ASTD Leadership Handbook, 10 Steps to Successful Training, The Ultimate Trainer, Thriving Through Change, The Business of Consulting, 2nd ed., and Training for Dummies. A long time volunteer for ASTD, she has served on ASTD's National Board of Directors, was the recipient of the 1992 ASTD Torch Award, the 2004 ASTD Volunteer Staff Partnership Award, and the 2006 Gordon Bliss Memorial Award. Elaine was instrumental in compiling the CPLP study guides and has designed five ASTD Certificate Programs. In addition to her work with ATD, she has served on the Independent Consultants Association's (ICA) Advisory Committee and on the Instructional Systems Association (ISA) board of directors.

About the Author

Tonya Wilson is the president and founder of AFC Consulting Group. She is a business leader, entrepreneur, consultant, author, organizational psychologist, and coach with expertise in organizational effectiveness and development, change management, and DE&I. She connects people to strategy. She has worked in manufacturing, aerospace, telecom, government markets, fintech, and healthcare. She has been in leadership at McKesson, Change Healthcare, Meggitt, and AT&T. She is a DEI SME/facilitator, Consultant, DEI thought leader, OD SME, and Change Management facilitator for ATD.

Tonya has worked with leaders to drive alignment between business and people strategies, led supplier diversity re-vamp initiatives, and been in leadership and oversight for BRGs. In addition to being published on sustaining DEI, she is also a co-host for the ATD DEI Discussion Series. Tonya coaches leaders on DEI strategy, change management, Communications IQ™, strategic action planning, leadership development, team/leader integration, organizational design, and organizational health. Her mission statement is "setting you up to win."

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