Will a Trump Presidency Be the Final Blow for Workplace Diversity?
It’s not possible to judge a public figure in isolation — you must also take into account the folks they surround themselves with. From friends and confidantes to advisors and interns, the quality and variety of our companions says a great deal about us.
Given all that, what do we know about President-Elect Trump and his thoughts on workplace diversity? Let’s take a look at what we can conclude so far.
Back before the tragic outcome of the Democratic and Republican conventions, photos circulated around the internet concerning the racial makeup of DNC and RNC interns. The Republican Party’s group photo was almost embarrassingly monochromatic — a sea of white faces, and nary a minority in sight. Snopes determined the photos told a more complicated story than was first believed, but the takeaway is clear. Diversity on Capitol Hill is truly in an embarrassing state right now.
And since the federal government is supposed to lead by example, what precedent does this situation set for the rest of the nation? And can we possibly expect Trump to rise above this exclusion?
In a word? No.
But let’s back up for a moment. On the evening of his triumph over the electoral college, Donald Trump stood before the country and promised to be the “president for everybody.” It was a pretty good soundbite. And for those of us kept up at night by the idea of President Nero playing his violin as America burns, it was an apparent olive branch. Maybe he really did want to build a government that worked for all of us.
So how has he done so far?
As it turns out, this promise was as empty as all the others. Trump’s administration-in-waiting is a who’s who of white nationalists, lobbyists, Christian supremacists, political hacks, corporate shills and science deniers. Trump’s cabinet so far is largely white, white, white and rich, rich, rich — with a combined net worth of about $11 billion, and counting.
How can such an assemblage of financially and ethically compromised individuals be expected to speak for the interests of “all Americans?” Answer — they cannot. Millionaires are a tiny minority in America, and billionaires are a tinier demographic still. Despite America’s proud and belligerent tradition of putting rich, white business leaders in government leadership positions, there’s still absolutely no evidence that doing so results in a healthier middle class or a more amicable distribution of economic opportunity.
One has to wonder just what Trump is playing at, breaking so many of his promises before he’s even been sworn in.
The State of Diversity in America
Let’s return to the idea that the federal government can, and must, lead by example when it comes to workplace ethics. President Barack Obama knew this when he proposed legislation that would provide parental leave for government employees and ensure they have a living wage, as well as when he encouraged the heads of federal agencies and departments to double-down on inclusion and diversity.
Across the rest of America, employers of all types have been slow to build more diverse organizations. Progress is being made, but according to the latest numbers, leadership roles in America are generally as predictable as the GOP’s stable of interns:
- Only 57 percent of women participate in America’s labor force.
- 26 percent of computer and mathematically focused occupations are held by women.
- 2 percent of CEO positions are held by women.
- 57 percent of American workers feel their companies aren’t diverse enough.
How a Lack of Diversity Hurts
These are problems — and not merely because diversity is “politically correct,” or because paying lip service to inclusionary hiring practices makes for good political optics or corporate PR. No — these are problems because they’re holding our country back, in ways we can literally measure:
- Companies committed to gender and ethnic diversity are 15 percent and 35 percent more likely, respectively, to outperform the competition.
- Companies with diverse workforces enjoy a per-employee cash flow that’s 2.3 times higher than their less-diverse peers.
- Companies that are focused on diversity are better positioned to respond to unexpected changes and 1.7 times more likely to be recognized as thought and innovation leaders in their industry.
In short, every organization benefits from the variety of backgrounds and perspectives brought forth by a diversity-focused mindset. It’s the reason the Democratic party’s slogan became “Stronger Together” in the latter days of the 2016 presidential campaign — because we know more than ever how much better off America is when we’re all pulling in the same direction and not leaving anybody on the sidelines.
The DNC proved almost staggeringly inept at communicating this very simple message to the nation, but it’s still the only “viable” political party to take seriously America’s mandate to be a cultural and social melting pot for the rest of the world. Common sense says we’re better off together, but we’ve just allowed a regime to come to power that wants to slam shut every door of inclusion we’ve worked so hard to open over the last 100 years.
A Century of Progress
This is why Trump’s transition team and administration are so heart-sinkingly, bewilderingly regressive. One might have hoped that, in the year 2016, fresh off our first black president’s two terms, America’s heart would have grown a few sizes, a la the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame.
Unfortunately, the Cult of Trump has become the whitest, least-experienced and least-diverse government coalition we’ve seen in some time — and it’s sending a clear signal to the rest of the country, including America’s employers, that this is how things are supposed to be.
If Trump has succeeded at anything, it’s been at making bigotry mainstream again. He’s reopened old wounds and given white and Christian supremacy a brand-new foothold in what is supposed to be the world’s capital for cultural richness. What he believes in his hidden heart is immaterial — he’s given a voice and a soapbox to perspectives that should be relegated to the most primitive pages of our collective history.
At the founding of our country, our leaders recognized a variety of ideas and perspectives, brought to our shores by people of various races, religions and genders, almost automatically results in a stronger and more resilient social fabric. We’ve come too far to let one man throw a century’s worth of progress under the bus.