NEW YORK (MainStreet) Last month, Twitter shared a breakdown of its diversity data, admitting it had a lot of work to do. Like its technology peers, the Twitter workforce is mostly white and Asian male.
In her post, Janet Van Huysse, vice president of diversity and inclusion, noted that it makes business sense that the faces of Twitter employees reflect "the vast and varied backgrounds of our users around the world." She also pointed out research that suggested that the more diverse a team, the better decisions it makes and that companies with women in leadership positions have better financial outcomes.
Twitter is taking action, but the question remains, who defines diverse?
In a recently published paper, "Diverse According to Whom?" Christopher W. Bauman, a business professor at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues say that diversity means different things to different people, depending on their racial identity and cultural background. One reason the authors cite for these differences is concerns about discrimination when people don't see others like themselves represented. For example, the authors say a team with four Caucasians and two Asians will appear diverse to Whites and Asians but not African Americans.
The study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Of course, that's not always the case. Out of 36 employees at Konnect Public Relations in Los Angeles, there are three African Americans, seven Asians, four Hispanics, 22 Caucasians, and one Indian, who sees the group as diverse.
"[I]t's not surprising that [this person] recognized and responded favorably to the fact that people at the company had very different backgrounds," says Bauman. "What's impossible to tell from her experience, however, is whether she would have perceived the group to be even more diverse if there were other Indians at the company. Our research suggests that it would."
"We found that people responded to racial heterogeneity," Bauman added. "Asian Americans, for example, perceived a team to be more diverse when it included African Americans and Whites rather than only Whites. However, Asian Americans perceived a team that included Asian Americans and Whites to be more diverse than a team that included African Americans and Whites.
The findings of the study suggest that when those from racial minorities see members of their own race on a workplace team, they perceive more diversity than when other racial minority groups are present.
Bauman notes that becoming diverse "can mean different things to different people" and there's no single solution for organizations.
For its part, Staples has as part of its diversity strategy, seven associate resource groups (ARGs), including Women Who Lead, HOLA (Hispanic or Latino Associates), Out At Work (LGBT community) and BlackTies.
"Diversity should be defined in the broadest possible way," says Erika Hopkins, director of global inclusion and diversity for Staples. Diversity goes beyond race, gender, age, sexual orientation and includes "perspective as well as thinking, learning and work styles," says Hopkins. "We see the power of diversity as a competitive advantage and strive to realize its full potential by leveraging the unique talents and strengths of our associates."
--Written by S.Z. Berg for MainStreet