Diversity– the key to the 21st century

By on January 11th, 2015 in Societal Impact

Recently Intel announced that it was not just investing in expanding the diversity of it’s work force, but also that executive compensation would be tied to success here.  My own research based on social capital (see concepts of Robert Putnam) development indicates that diversity is a key to innovation, so Intel’s emphasis makes sense.

But, diversity is a two way street. Each individual can expand their personal “diversity index” (I just created that term for this discussion) by expanding their range of contacts, classes, readings, etc.)  The 21st century will be dominated by multidisciplinary requirements — and technology fields will often be a key component here.  There are very few aspects of society that are not influenced (if not dominated) by computer technology.  Another entire area of interactions is emerging in health care, biology, genomics and evolution.

Productive employees, citizens and innovators will cultivate their awareness in these diverse areas so they can be effective at contributing to, or critiquing the challenges we will face.  I anticipate employers (at least enlightened ones) will recognize and seek individuals with this diversity.

Diversity from college on

The Wall St. Journal, 11 Nov 2013, argues that focusing too much in college can backfire — students (parents, advisers – and even committees creating new majors or certificates) can be lured by last years job market and end up with limited (or non-existent) opportunities. Part of this is the inability to predict the future job market, but another key aspect is the reality that the exciting growth careers ten years from now do not exist today.

This is a opportunity for every professional (technologist or not).  IEEE has a key strength here with the diversity of fields it addresses.  You can participate in (some) IEEE meetings where folks in the room are experts in intelligent vehicles, solar power, medical technology, software engineering, sensors, etc, etc, etc. If you take the time to build your network to include these folks your potential diversity expands dramatically.  Other IEEE meetings will span every part of the globe, and some will span in both dimensions (Sections Congress for example).

There are paths outside of IEEE as well, and folks who take the time to develop these experiences, contacts, and understandings will bring critically needed insight to the table wherever they work.