Magazine article Talent Development

R. Roosevelt Thomas. Jr

Magazine article Talent Development

R. Roosevelt Thomas. Jr

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

CEO, R. Thomas Consulting & Training

Founder, American Institute for Managing Diversity

Decatur, Georgia

For more than 20 years, R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., often referred to as the "father of diversity," has consulted with CEOs and other senior executives on defining diversity as a business issue and in developing and implementing diversity strategies. He is the author of the groundbreaking 1990 Harvard Business Review article, "From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity," and is the author of books including World Class Diversity Management: A Strategic Approach, Redefining Diversity, and Beyond Race and Gender.

Thomas holds a doctorate in business administration in organizational behavior from Harvard University and has served as the dean of the graduate school of business administration at Atlanta University. In 1994, ASTD awarded him its highest honor, The Distinguished Contribution to Human Resource Development Award.

Q |HOW HAVE ISSUES AND ATTITUDES RELATED TO DIVERSITY AND DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED WORKING IN THIS AREA?

I should say we've made great progress with the issue of representation and relationships--ensuring that we have workforces with numerical profiles reflecting society's representation with respect to race, gender, and ethnicity, and ensuring that these individuals experienced good relationships among themselves and with the organization. But this could have been accomplished under the tent of affirmative action, which is concerned with achieving appropriate representation and productive relationships.

On the other hand, diversity and diversity management are about managing and engaging people who are different and similar, all for the benefit of the organization and its goals. We are now just beginning to get around to understanding that diversity and affirmative action are different.

Q| DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORABLE ANECDOTES FROM YOUR WORK THAT YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

One involves a gentleman who really understood what I meant when I said that diversity could refer to the differences, similarities, and complexities that can characterize any mixture.

At a book signing, he came up to me and asked, "Do you ever talk about diversity in the context of family? …

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