The Importance of Building on Our Nation’s Greatest Strength: Diversity

Has our country advanced beyond affirmative action? This question was at the crux of last summer’s Supreme Court decision, which ultimately reaffirmed the use of race in college admissions. The historic case of Fisher v.Texas underscored the importance of educational diversity and noted that affirmative action still remained necessary to promote cross-racial understanding.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor summed it up best in a different ruling when she said, “major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.” In other words, Justice O’Connor saw diversity as a national interest.

Numerous studies suggest that diversity has not only become a reality but a necessity both on college campuses and in today’s corporations. As workforce demographics shift and global markets emerge, those companies that have deeper cross-cultural understandings will fare far better. Furthermore, it has been proven that multi-cultural workplace teams have more opportunity for creativity. A study conducted in Forbes showed that of 321 large global enterprises – companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue – 85 percent strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace. In other words, diversity contributes directly to the bottom line.

Our nation is strengthened by our growing diversity and pathways that foster diversity need to remain clear and open – not only those pathways that promote diversity in higher education; but, in addition, those that promote diversity in the workplace.

According to our most recent Diversity Jobs Report, African Americans and Hispanics still collectively comprise over 40% of the total unemployed workers in the nation. These figures clearly speak to the fact that while, as a nation, we’ve made tremendous strides, there’s still much progress to be made. Census datatell us that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in our country and between 2000 and 2050 new immigrants and their children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population. Our economy will grow and benefit from these changing demographics if businesses can commit to meeting the needs of diverse communities of workers and consumers.

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