The New Generation Gap: Diversity

The generation gap has taken many twists and turns. For Baby Boomers, the gap was between themselves and their Traditionalist parents. For Gen X’ers, the gap was more workplace related. For Millennials, the gap appears to center around the meaning of diversity-an interpretation that diverges from their parent’s views on differences.

Who could have predicted that Baby Boomers who gave us Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement and Millennials who gave us the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement, would have such unique understandings of diversity.

According to a recent study from Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, Millennials tend to view diversity as everything that makes us different as opposed to just demographic indicators like race or gender, a view more commonly held by their Baby Boomer parents.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with defining diversity as all the differences we bring to an organization, there is a danger of ignoring other historical diversity markers particularly those that have not yielded full inclusion like race and gender. By ignoring these historical inequalities, Millennials according to Adia Harvey Wingfield, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University, have weaken long term diversity programs like affirmative action by refocusing diversity on more palatable issues like background, work experience, thought, personality and behavior. She goes on to say that this superficial view of diversity held by many Millennials overlooks longstanding underrepresentation of women and people of color in legal, medical, science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions.

Robert Putnam in his book “Bowling Alone” takes note of this trend that the diversity gains in the USA driven mostly by Millennials have not resulted in inclusive schools, neighborhoods and workplaces where diversity is fully recognized and embraced. For Putnam, the quest for this elusive inclusion influenced in part by artificial social media connections, has created some of the lowest civic engagement and trust levels in the history of the USA.

Have Millennials taken their “Eyes Off the Prize?” A message driven home in the folk song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” popularized during the Civil Rights movement.

Are the diversity investments in equality for all a ghost of the past to Millennials? I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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