What do I say about employment diversity that hasn’t already been said? There are many different perspectives on the subject. Whether you are a scholar or a participant, the experiences, although sometimes similar, will not be the same. When I was approached to write this article I immediately told myself that I was up to the challenge. I quickly responded to the request and accepted the task. It was my VP who approached me after all; and who says no to their VP? It was an honor to be thought of. An honor that he felt I had something worthwhile to say and that I was articulate enough to say it. Then after the smoke cleared, the dust settled, and I began to think about the task at hand.
Asset protection/loss prevention has evolved as an industry and grown leaps and bounds in the realm of employment diversity. When I began my career close to 15 years ago I was the only person of ethnicity on a team of all males. As I traversed my career, the demographics changed. Suddenly I was no longer the only diverse person and the team was no longer all male. That being said, although the ethnicities and genders differed, there was still something missing—something that still felt eerily familiar. What I realized was that the differences I was seeing represented were entirely on the surface. The mindsets were all exactly the same; all alphas, all relatively conservative and rigid in our thinking, and all still “good ol’ boys” (and girls).
If you look at the statistics on employment diversity over the past 20 years you will often find the information focusing on the same categories; age, ethnicity, gender, etc.; 35 percent African American, 43 percent Caucasian, 9 percent this, 7 percent that, and so on. Muhammad Ali once said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” We must look at employment diversity, in both asset protect and in retail, the same way. If we approach this subject the same as we did 20 years ago, we have wasted 20 years on the topic.
Let’s be real: diversity concerning race, age, gender or any of the other protected classes have gotten better but are still a challenge; and it’s going to take more than the traditional thinking to change that. If we want to effectively battle this challenge in asset protection we must learn to expand on the idea.
I have come to realize that diversity must be more than what you can physically see. It is a concept and a perception that must be expanded upon. I began to look at it differently. I began to look at backgrounds and life experiences versus what was once the traditional diverse work environment. I began to believe that only by expanding on the concept would we breed diversity, help grow our industry and maintain its relevance.
As business acumen became a fundamental aspect of asset protection other diverse mindsets needed to be considered. The creative, technological, analytical, scientific, and tactical minds (in other word, nerds, jocks, artists, and scholars) all had a place in the world of asset protection, and were as important to the growth of the industry as African Americans and Latinos, men and women, LGBTQ and straight, or the young and old. What was once a world belonging to the security conscious alone had to become a world of business leaders.
Today, as I watch many of my peers move on from successful asset protection professionals and transition to successful leaders in operations, human resources, information technology, and general managers, I realize that my thoughts and ideas on employment diversity were manifesting in real time. I look around me now and feel blessed to be surrounded by nerds, jocks, artists, and scholars who can give me a fresh perspective; those who can provide me with ideas that are sometimes so simple it’s embarrassing to not have thought of them on my own. But that’s what diversity brings. It gives us different ways of looking at the same thing, new ways of looking at our business, and gives us the ability to evolve.
It’s interesting to look at diversity today versus 30 years ago. What was once an idea built on civil rights has become an element that no organization can succeed without. A diverse work environment breeds diverse thought, diverse thought cultivates diverse ideas, and diverse ideas grow businesses. Diversity today is not the same as it was yesterday, and I for one am very interested to see what it will be tomorrow.