Diversity is a hot topic for many of our clients. We are currently conducting a diversity and inclusion search for one of our clients and it is abundantly clear that the traditional definition of diversity no longer fits. Instead, a broader definition of inclusion, to include diversity of thought, education, experience, and background, is what’s needed.
The best way diversity and inclusion can shine in an organization is when it happens naturally or at least seems that way. Recently, we saw this with NASA’s introduction of the new class of astronauts. Four out of the eight astronauts chosen are women - the highest percentage of women in an astronaut class in the history of the organization.
"All the women candidates have tremendous qualifications and certainly earned the right to be there, so I'm glad," Janet Kavandi, NASA's director of flight crew operations explained in a CBS News interview. "I'm happy that it turned out that way, but we didn't go out intentionally seeking that when we started out."
The NASA example is the result of many years of moving the needle within NASA and the ultimate talent base, our educational system. There is still much to be done. However, NASA’s new class of astronauts truly is an inspiration to us all. Interestingly, the announcement of the newest astronaut class coincides with the 30th anniversary of Sally Rides’ mission as the first American woman in space. Ride was a champion for more diversity in science and technology throughout her life.
“I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see,” Ride explained to Harvard Business Review last year. While she never intended to be a role model, Ride knew how important it is to encourage young people. Even after she completed her work with NASA, she continued to inspire students, especially young women, through teaching and writing science books.
Ride’s legacy is important as we strive to help organizations create an inclusive workforce. When organizations encourage diversity of all kinds, that spurs innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurialism, and competiveness in an increasingly global world.