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30 May. 2012 | Comments (0)


Some D&I professionals launch their initial strategies simultaneously around the globe.  More frequently, D&I initiatives begin in one country or region, and then face the challenges of global expansion as organizations gain international employees, suppliers, customers, board members and investors.  Even when employees and customers are local, D&I leaders must respond to international megatrends, including:


  • Global demographic shifts related to migration, birth, aging, and faith groups
  • Global trends in human rights and equity legislation
  • Economic and political fluctuations in Gross National Product and power shifts from developed countries, such as the US, to developing countries, such as Brazil, India and China
  • Global implications of recent United Nations discussions to look beyond Gross National Product by examining Gross National Happiness, Bhutan’s innovative, holistic approach to measure growth and well-being across material, social, spiritual, and environmental factors.  
  • Local and global interests quickly mingle as technology enables connection and collaboration across borders and as employees gain flexibility in determining where and when to do their work.

The combination of trends such as these creates a global climate for organizations and their D&I opportunities. Recognizing these trends, D&I leaders need to ensure our strategies are both globally and locally relevant.  How do we include and make the most of globally diverse populations?  A first step is to establish D&I frameworks that make sense in a global environment.

Global Framework

In The Inclusion Paradox, Andrés Tapia discusses several D&I perspectives that inform the foundations for our strategies.  Among them, he includes:

  • Isolationists who have a limited view of the world and do not think of diversity outside their own country.  Their D&I strategies are only local.
  • Imperialists who think that programs that are successful in a home country will be equally effective elsewhere.  Their D&I strategies are at risk of being irrelevant and resisted outside the home country.   
  • Globalists who are more experienced and committed to global diversity do not assume that what has worked in one place will work elsewhere.  They are successful, in part, because they find diversity’s relevant meaning in each country and use that to balance global strategy, structure, objectives and principles with local approaches. 

Globalist Definition of Inclusion and Diversity

Are your definitions of D&I isolationist, imperialist or globalist?  Getting the definition of D&I right is part of setting a strong foundation for global relevance.  Broad globalist definitions that connect to the core mission of D&I are not framed by one dimension, such as gender, or a single national context, such as one country’s dynamics between aboriginal and mainstream populations.  An inclusive definition is a good starting point to help global stakeholders be receptive rather than skeptical of D&I.  Tapia promotes a useful definition that is increasingly being adopted by global D&I leaders.  He says that

  • “Diversity is the mix”, the combination of a group of people (e.g. employees or customers) and all their similarities and differences.
  • “Inclusion is making the mix work” by cultivating the conditions to make the most of the diverse mix of complementary similarities and differences to generate productive and profitable outputs to fulfill an organization’s mission.

Similarly, many of my colleagues around the world have replaced former definitions of diversity, centered on lists of people who were different from the mainstream (e.g. women, people with disabilities, ethnic or religious minorities), with more contemporary and inclusive descriptions including:

  • Diversity is what comes through the door.  Inclusion is what you do with it.
  • Diversity is who we are.  Inclusion is how we behave.
  • Diversity is fixing the mix.  Inclusion is maximizing the mix.

A globalist definition creates space to enable every entity to understand the mix in a way that is locally important and to make the mix work for them in customized ways.  What do you need to do to ensure a globalist framework to make your mix work to deliver business objectives? 

In a future post, I will discuss next steps in addressing other key tensions and challenges in taking your D&I strategy global. 

View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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