Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Diversity in the Navy - one view

Over on SWONet, you may have read this from a reader, SWOJO on SWONet, who game me permission to re-publish it here. If not, I will repeat in whole. I may or may not agree with everything here, but it is a nice, clear opening of a discussion. As expected - most will not touch it with a 10 foot pole. That fear should tell you a lot. That is why I call them Diversity Bullies.
Over the last few months I've reviewed the Navy's Diversity websites, read "Implementing Diversity" from the CNO's Reading list, listened to Flag Officers talk about Diversity, and reviewed the Community Briefs from PERS-41. From all of this I think that the Navy is incorrectly communicating and implementing our Diversity Strategy, and should change course.

The Navy's Diversity Strategy is being communicated in a way that is unclear. From looking at the NPC Diversity site (https://www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/Diversity/) , one would think that the purpose of our diversity program is to give awards to sailors of various minority groups, and celebrate minority holidays. This is completely missing the point of what a true diversity program is, and the real reason we need to focus on Diversity.

I think Diversity is important to the U.S. Navy because it will help us be more effective as a team. We will recognize people's strengths and use them to our advantage, and I don't mean simply their race or gender. We will "cast a wider net" for talent in America among groups that are currently under-represented. The idea behind this is that there are talented individuals, who either by their desire or the design of our recruiting/retention system, are not in the Navy right now. We want talent, so we need to modify how we recruit/retain in order to have a force that is representative of our recruiting pool - the American public. We want people of all backgrounds - gender, race, ethnicity, mental abilities, education, family status, work experience, religion, language, and communication style.

The Navy's problem is that we have confused diversity and affirmative action, and the sole focus of our diversity program is on minorities. As Loden calls it, we are "Marginalizing the Mainstream". Nowhere on the NPC Diversity site does it mention an award, holiday, press release, or other recognition of someone in the Navy who is a white male. The push for Diversity in our Navy has started on the wrong foot, and we need to get back to the eloquent definition on the top of the Diversity website that is not reflected in the rest of it. My intent is not to harp on a single website; I have listened to lip service from Flag Officers who end an otherwise interesting brief with stale, hollow comments such as "and our Diversity is the foundation of our entire plan" Without specifics on Diversity or a frank discussion, hollow Navy Newstand releases and Flag Officer comments about Diversity do nothing to extend these ideas to the Fleet.

Specifically, the PERS-41 SWO Senior Community Brief and Junior Officer Community Brief communicate the exact wrong message about Diversity. In these briefs, statistics are shown regarding Diversity personnel numbers, percentages of "Diverse" officers who have taken SWOCP, and other data to show retention comparisons for these "Diverse" officers. My question to PERS-41 is what is the definition of "Diverse"? Our community is communicating the wrong message about Diversity - that you are only diverse if you are not Caucasian, and that promotion rates are our metric for success in achieving diversity. They are decreasing the true meaning of Diversity by narrowing it down to a numbers game for promotions and assignments that has the tone of affirmative action. White male officers should feel threatened if this is how we are measuring success - less promotions for them and more for minorities. These metrics are fundamentally flawed, and aren't helping us as a Navy.

My intent is not to complain without solutions, so I offer the following suggestions to the Navy, SURFOR, and PERS-41 staff who are leading us in this new effort to create a culture that appreciates Diversity

1) Define the fundamental objective of the Navy's Diversity Program, and why it will help us accomplish our mission. It will need to be clearer than the documents put out thus far, and use language that sailors can understand and take onboard. Flowery language from PhD's can be a starting point, but the goal is to have us buy into the program.

2) Communicate this idea to the Fleet. Let people know your reasoning and justify your answers. I now believe that the intent of this program is not merely political correctness, but many others may not. Convince them.

3) Stop all attempts to put metrics to this program too early. I know MOE's are important, but the first step is change people's minds, and convince them that diversity is important. As the current metric you show promotion rates for minorities/females compared to white males, it makes the effort sound as an "us versus them". There is no metric for a PERS-41 brief that can show people have adopted the mindset that a diverse force is a good thing, other than polls which probably won't be too accurate.

4) Focus your efforts on recruiting a cross-section of America. Add recruiters to minority areas, and even pull them away from areas that are majority dense. We are a peacetime Navy that is doing okay with recruiting numbers lately. Shift your resources in recruiting so that the Diversity concept has room to grow.

5) Remember that Diversity is not 2 dimensional - it's not only race and gender. There are many more characteristics of people that make them different, and valuable to the team. The diversity books on the CNO's Reading List explain this, yet it is not reflected in our strategy.


Diversity is a topic that I am very interested in, and have a lot to learn about. I think our action-oriented Navy is moving too fast, and in the wrong direction with Diversity. As we move forward with the order to implement a Diversity Strategy, we need to start with the "why" before the "how".

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