Diversity in the Community and Workplace, A Millennial Perspective
After a recent trip to the Midwest, where companies and executives are beginning to strategize on how to attract young and diverse talent, I began to introspectively analyze the issue a bit further.
Major corporations as well as growing starts-ups are offering comprehensive benefit packages, perks on flexibility and work environments and investment in development, yet it seems they cannot fill positions with young, diverse talent fast enough. Under the preface that millennials put where they want to live ahead of where they want to work, I started to ask myself more about why young, professional minorities are hesitant in moving to the Midwest. Perhaps the obvious reason is that minorities don’t see themselves in these communities and therefore are not attracted to them, but I felt there had to be more than that.
“Honestly, I feel a lot of people think that the Midwest is hesitant toward people of different races,” said Felipe Loza, a fellow student at New Mexico State University who attended the trip hosted by the National Millennial Community. Loza, an energetic Journalism and Media Studies major, is from El Paso, Texas. He was surprised at the friendliness of all those he interacted with in the Midwest.
The National Millennial Community recently provided my colleagues and I with the opportunity to travel Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri representing the Journalism and Media Studies Department at New Mexico State University.
In Omaha, we met with executives and professionals from established organizations like The Greater Chamber of Omaha, Union Pacific Railroad, and Mutual of Omaha. We also met with up and coming start-ups such as Flywheel and Spreetail. In Kansas City we met with teams from Andrews McMeel Universal Publishing Company and Sandbox Agency, along with the Senior Vice President of Sprint and the Chief Operating Officer of KCPT Television. The conversations with these professionals surrounded issues such as attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, including millennials, and establishing culture in the workplace as well as in the community. As “flexibility” continued to come up in conversations, I also wondered if this was specific to collectivist cultures because of traditional family values.
“I love managers that understand that I’m committed to the organization 100%,” says Brittany Gamble, a graduate student NMC member and MyCorporation Editorial Intern, “but, that doesn’t mean my personal life doesn’t arise. If a family member is sick in the hospital or I am sick and need to work remotely, I appreciate a manager who offers this sort of flexibility.”
NMC is a group founded in early 2016 whose mission is “to change the conversation about millennials (and also GenZ) and allow the NextGen to define themselves”.
The group is made up of over 300 graduate and undergraduate students, alumnae, faculty and administrators representing 46 colleges and universities in 44 states, D.C., and Guam. The National Millennial Community is a cross-section of diversity representing a range of ethnicity and race, age and marital status, geographical areas and citizenships, job and socio-economic statuses, and political beliefs.
NMC has met with more than 150 corporate, foundation, nonprofit, and governmental leaders and executives including Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, PBS, Starbucks, Walt Disney, Wells Fargo and many others. The organization also assists in facilitating internship opportunities for its community members.
According to a survey conducted among some of the NMC’s members, family was a consistent cultural value not only among minorities but non-minorities as well. So was hard work. The Midwest should use these two commonalities to position itself in attracting diversity and becoming more culturally rich.
To overcome the notion that the Midwest is hesitant towards race they must consider the values most important to these cultures in order to engineer an environment that will keep their community flourishing. How then, can we contribute to accomplishing this? I think back to a course I took in teaching elementary multi-cultural education. The takeaway was that we should teach with a more integrative approach. Instead of hosting cultural events on the most significant holiday once a year- the values, traditions and must be integrated cohesively, in a continuous and consistent manner.
Looking within diverse communities to understand the most vibrant environments can also assist in producing results. Connecting outside cultural influencers and collaborators with experiences within the Midwest community can help to elevate exposure. Millennials are problem solvers and placed in the right environments they can produce massive results with exponential outreach.