Mr Flexible Space
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: July/August 2014
So Why Should We Care About Diversity And Inclusion?



Workplace diversity in hospitality and tourism is a key factor in representing the community as a whole and facilitating cultural exchange on a global level. For any destination, the individuals telling the story of the community to the world should be a good representation of the city.

It is easy for diversity and inclusion discussions to become misguided without the proper information or intent. During my career, I have seen several industry organizations such as Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) take on the diversity and inclusion issue for our industry.  Each organization has seen some success but sustaining these efforts has been problematic. 

The topic of diversity and inclusion isn't always on our respective organizational agendas since we may not believe they impact us directly. When in fact, things are changing and populations are evolving. The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043 and the proportion of the population younger than 18 is expected to change little over the 2012-2060 period, decreasing from 23.5 percent to 21.2 percent.

On a local level, the student body of the Minneapolis Public Schools speak a combined 100 languages at home. Minneapolis also has the largest Somali population outside of Somalia, and the citizens of Minneapolis elected its first Somalian City Council member in 2013. As a matter of fact, seven newly elected city council members have ushered in a change that represents a diversity of age, race and national origin that has never been seen since the city's incorporation in 1867.  

It is a lot to digest, but we must prepare ourselves for what diversity and inclusion means for our businesses. Demographic trends such as those from the U.S. Census Bureau help to inform us about our current and future customers. The first part of this preparation is education about customers and colleagues that come different ethnic groups, faith traditions, national origins, age groups, sexual orientation, disabilities (particularly those that are not apparent) or socioeconomic levels. We should educate ourselves on how decisions we make are influenced by one or more of those unique aspects of our backgrounds. 

Meet Minneapolis is proactively taking steps to prepare ourselves for the changes occurring around us through our hiring practices. We also explore the potential of young adults through the City of Minneapolis' Urban Scholar program. Urban Scholars is a leadership development summer internship program for college students from diverse, racial and ethnic backgrounds. The program introduces undergraduate and graduate students to local government and public service positions. Meet Minneapolis has found several talented individuals to join the team that are graduates of the Urban Scholar program.

So, are we aware of the potential blind spots we have in dealing with diverse colleagues and customers? Do we have a business plan in place that provides intentional strategies as to how to interact with diverse populations?

These are just some of the questions we should ask ourselves as we determine if our businesses are ready to effectively and successfully interact with our changing customer groups.

My friend and colleague Hattie Hill says that, "the state of business has shifted from a time when diversity was something you think you should do, to something that is now critical for success in today's multicultural climate. The business case is simple - in order to compete in the rapidly changing business environment, growing organizations must make it a priority to respond to the current needs of their workforce, customers and stakeholders."

The world is changing right before our eyes. Those who are interested in learning about and embracing the changes in the world will survive and prosper. Those who ignore those changes and remain stagnant will be left behind.

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