I am now the United States correspondent for DiversityQ! I grew up in London but I moved to New York City a year ago. The aim of this column is to bring you my perspective on American diversity and inclusion initiatives as a Brit living in the US.
My first impression is that the United States has the edge on diversity and inclusion compared to the United Kingdom. I’ve noticed more representation in various sectors, such as in the media. I feel like American culture is more inclined to social mobility (think the American dream) so I see more women and people of color up front. Particularly in regards to race, I also believe this is because the US has had a longer presence of people of colour and consequently a longer history of diversity programs such as affirmative action. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a better reflection of disabled people.
What’s more, in the US’s current political climate, it’s not a surprise that diversity has become highly politicised. Just look at the frenzy over Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advert. Including underrepresented groups is no longer just a commercial and moral good, but a political statement that you can sell – Nike’s stock recently closed at $83 per shareholder, an all-time high for the company. I’ve yet to see the same politicisation of diversity in British companies, even with all the controversy of Brexit. But, to be clear, the US still definitely has room for improvement in terms of representation. Fortune reports that 72% of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs are white men.
American diversity and the shape of a nation
So, culture, politics, and history distinctly shape a nation’s approach to diversity and inclusion. I’d like to explore how class shapes the US’s outlook on diversity, the generational shift between baby boomer and millennial perspectives on representation and how diversity programs change depending on where you are in the US, particularly comparing the North and the South.