Generation Z Challenges Traditional Racial and Gender Classifications

July 2, 2019

While companies have made some strides in inclusion and diversity efforts over the last couple of decades there is still much work to be done. Consider these two statistics:



Diversity efforts are tracked with statistics like these to providing a measuring stick. But changing societal, cultural and demographic trends are creating new challenges. Specifically, the labels we've used in the past to categorize groups of people may be becoming irrelevant and outdated. Specifically, racial and gender classifications aren't keeping up with how future workers are choosing to identify.


Evolving Notions of Gender…


Let's start with gender. For an article for NPR, Lidia Jean Kott tells us that millennials are finding traditional gender assumptions to be too confining. “They are challenging the idea that men must dress a certain way, and women another. And they are rewriting the rules and refashioning clothes so that they can dress and accessorize in whatever way feels right to them,” Kott writes. In addition, of course the concept of binary gender is rapidly devolving.


…and Race


Classifications based on race are getting trickier as well. It was once argued that rather than being a melting pot, the United States is more of a salad bowl. There may be a diverse group of races and ethnicities that make up our populations, but they tend to associate and affiliate with their own groups, rather than mixing. That is becoming less and less true, especially as people are identifying as more than one race or ethnicity.


Recognizing the “Others” Among Us


Data-gathering efforts of I&D initiatives are often hindered by their reliance on self-identification. We've all seen the check boxes on forms from job applications to census questionnaires asking us to self-identify and report our race, gender, disability status, veteran status, etc. These frequently have a checkbox for "other," and this is increasingly the preferred selection. The flexibility with which we approach rigid definitions of race—and gender identity—is having an impact on individuals, organizations, and society at large.



While I&D efforts may face a few curveballs when it comes to data collection and classification, nothing remains static for long. As culture, demography and society continue to evolve, I&D efforts will need to evolve as well to ensure that we continue to be inclusive of different groups even as group identities grow and evolve.


Be inclusive!




In Inclusion: STILL the Competitive Business Advantage, we continue our contributions to thought leadership on the importance of inclusion in an environment that has been roiled with new discussion—and new dissent—amid rapidly changing demographics, continually emerging technology and a global economy that is continually shifting to favor newly emerging market powerhouses. We're very gratified by the positive reviews already pouring in. 


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