That march and the subsequent ones inspired my work in diversity, and fueled and ignited my passion for inclusion, because when people feel included in something greater than themselves, and when one person can help another person or group of people be successful, we’ll be creating better communities, workplaces, and a better world for all of us.
In 1963, we were marching to end the exclusion of people from the voting booths, schools, jobs, and other rights because of the color of their skin.
From Integration 1963 to Diversity and Inclusion Today
Today we talk about diversity management and creating inclusive work cultures. We strategize on how to leverage the diverse skills and experiences of all employees and recruit from an expanded diverse pool of candidates.
We’ve moved forward, but we’re not done. Bias still exists and if unchecked will negatively impact the whole organization and it’s ability to hire, promote, and retain the best people, as well as expand into new markets.
The civil rights era made a difference. It made a difference in where people live, where they go to school, the jobs they hold, and created opportunities for people to start their own businesses. We broadened our perspective to think in terms of human rights and include people from all cultures, religions, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.
Were it not for the civil rights era with the marches, sit-ins and demonstrations, there wouldn’t be the awareness today of the need to integrate diversity and inclusion into the overall business strategy.
It took more than new laws to create real change and will take more than the words diversity and inclusion in our mission statements to create inclusive work cultures.
It took a ground swell of people united for a common goal to eliminate segregation. As the diversity journey continues it will take executives, managers, employees and customers to create culture change. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to champion diversity and inclusion wherever we are.
Like millions of people who stood up for civil rights and ended legalized segregation, we have to stand up, speak out and ensure that people don’t lose their voting rights that they get an education, and can enter and succeed in the workplace.
In addition, we each need to examine our daily lives, and determine whether our actions are helping us move closer to Martin Luther King’s dream. If not, let us each ask ourselves what more we can do.