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Bob Duffy: Thoughts on the Future of DEI in Greater Rochester

September 15, 2023

Greater Rochester has been at the forefront of progress in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion for hundreds of years, going back to Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and so many others. Today, we need to focus our efforts on continuing to be a welcoming and equitable place for people of all walks of life in spite of the challenges we have faced as a community.

As we look to the future, we need to expand our view of diversity. By 2030, Gen Z will make up 30% of the workforce. Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, and that they see diversity and inclusion as issues beyond race and ethnicity. Truly valuing diversity, intersectionality, and hidden talent of all forms needs to be a hallmark of our organizations and communities moving forward in order to reap the benefits that come with having an inclusive workplace.

We also need to extend our goals to look past equality and focus on true equity. While equality states that all individuals should receive the same treatment, equity acknowledges the individual's distinct situation and adapts the treatment to ensure that the final outcome is fair. A common explanation of the difference between equality and equity is that “Equality is giving everyone the same pair of shoes. Equity is giving everyone a pair of shoes that fits.” Many underrepresented people have been fighting to get into the room. We need to not just get everyone in the same room, but we need to remove the need for that fight.

Finally, as leaders of inclusion, we need to ensure that each member of our community is valued for their contributions, not for checking a box. While we should not need to justify DEI work with a business case, employees who feel as though they are tokenized representative of diverse groups will not bring nearly the same benefits to an organization that would be garnered by a truly diverse workforce where they can be genuinely themselves. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that companies with above-average total diversity have 19% points higher innovation revenues and 9% points higher EBIT margins, on average.

The importance of the work done by the finalists for our 2023 Colors of Success DEI Leadership Award finalists cannot be overstated, and we would like to thank them for walking the walk each day and working to break down the barriers in our community. The future of DEI in Greater Rochester and beyond is in great hands.


This column originally appeared in the 2023 Colors of Success DEI Leadership Award Publication on 9.14.23.


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