Diversity is variety. It includes all the characteristics, experiences, and differences of each individual. Diversity can be identified as physical characteristics such as skin color and gender, or it may be differences in culture, skills, education, personality type, or upbringing. Each of these traits brings their own perspective and skills to the workplace.
(Image credited to: Health Resources and Services Administration)
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is a culture that recognizes, values, and respects each individual and promotes collaboration and fairness to enable all members of the workforce to reach their full potential.
What's the difference between diversity and EEO?
Diversity management is a process concerned with equity or fairness. Unlike EEO, it's not legally required, is based on choice, and includes everyone. A good diversity management program aims to improve awareness of others that will lead to positive behavioral changes. Human Resources champions diversity.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is distinct from diversity and focuses on equality and equal access. It's legally-based and primarily concerned with protected classes. Compliance with EEO policy is mandated by law. EEO employs corrective and preventative measures for discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and equal opportunity. The Office of Civil Rights handles EEO, and they manage the complaint process.
Why does the Coast Guard care about diversity and inclusion?
A diverse workforce provides a variety of perspectives and talents that will enhance the workplace. An inclusive work environment creates a workforce that values the individual contributions of its personnel and allows members to feel empowered. Inclusion increases innovation and strengthens teams.
In order to maximize its effectiveness and efficiency, the Coast Guard needs the best possible people to work as a team. If individuals feel excluded, the Coast Guard loses the skills and talents of that member, which reduces the potential quality of the organization.
A team needs to trust and respect each other. If a member feels excluded or marginalized, he/she is less inclined to work with the team, trust the other members, or add input. This becomes especially dangerous when people notice a safety concern, but the don't feel like they can speak up. Additionally, targeted individuals are more likely to leave the Coast Guard, which results in a loss of training, talent, and experience.
Diversity is NOT only about women and minorities!
While race, gender, and physical characteristics are easily identifiable differences, and therefore, the most apparent aspects of diversity, there are many other dimensions of diversity. Diversity dimensions can be internal, external, and organizational. (see chart above)
Here are some examples:
- Regional origin (Southern U.S. v. Midwest)
- Political party affiliation (Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc.)
- Personality type (introvert vs. extrovert)
- Rate (MK, YN)
- Education level
As Coast Guardsmen, Coast Guard members are expected to treat each other professionally and respectfully regardless of individual differences.
Why should I care about diversity?
Work environment directly affects unit performance. We all want to contribute to a productive and positive work environment. Such an environment enhances effectiveness, increases job satisfaction, and retains valuable employees. Whether it's a boarding team, an AVDET, or a staff unit, the mission suffers when members can't work as a team.