Over past decades the issue of diversity has taken a very visible place in the growth and structuring of the workplace population. Whether it was caused by mandates or natural shifts in population, the job sites look quite different.

The challenge, as I see it, is not only to continue to push for more diversity in the two major categories — gender and race/ethnicity — but also in less obvious areas such as education, energy, and temperament. It is these less noticeable areas where, I believe, the most opportunity and riches exists.

Having broken a few glass ceilings in my day and surely having been a member of the female corporate executive infantry, I know what it’s like to be placed in a position of “first and only.” It can be exhilarating and stressful, lonely as well as welcoming. I look at where the workplace has come with some pride and a lot of dismay. So much has happened and so much potential missed.

The work for gender and race/ethnicity representation is far from finished. Some industries and professions are further along while others seem content in the Dark Ages. For those willing and eager to expand and enrich the mix, I suggest some other areas to be considered.

Education: Just the other day two clients mentioned that all the members of their rather large elite teams came from a very limited list of colleges and universities, and even further, a shorter list of specializations. As a proponent of quality education, I have no bone to pick with any of the schools or areas of study represented on these teams. The problem is group think, too many people with identical perspectives and training. The risk is accepting what appears to be a crystal clear way of approaching a problem when in fact it is but one of many. Where is the broader, more historical, view of the liberal arts graduates who write as well as they calculate? Are the educators destined to be trainers when they might be the logical team leaders of a technical group? Is there room for the person who attended a State school for financial or family responsibility reasons? Can you learn for learning’s sake and then work at something very different? I guess not often enough having surveyed the landscape.

Energy: I freely admit I have never been a morning person. I have a button that says, “Not a morning person doesn’t even begin to describe me.” Have a meeting at 4 pm, you’ll get a lot more from me than at 8 am. Clearly, I am not the only person like this, yet most workplaces still hold employees to their artificial schedule. Being in my own business allows me the luxury of creating a personalized timetable but for most of my career I was at the mercy of my early bird bosses. The more creative and family-friendly companies I associate with have more than just tolerance for flexible schedules; they actually enable them. For many sole contributors does it really matter whether they do the report at 10 am or 10 pm, take a real lunch or skip the meal all together (not my recommendation)? Strictly from congestion perspective, it makes life easier if everyone isn’t in the elevator or at the cafeteria at the same time but at a more basic level it honors when people are really at their best and capable of doing their best.

Temperament: Many of you know I am a strong advocate of the application of the MBTI — Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tool. It helps individuals, their supervisors, and other teams members measure, identify, understand, and appreciate traits and differences in areas such as how you focus your attention, take in information, make a decision, and operate and deal in the world. The challenge is to convince decision makers how a variety of types actually enhance a team rather than divides it. We all know the tendency of “like to hire like.” This can be especially true when it comes to type. Get a group of practical people who like to tackle the here and now using facts and do so in a logical, organized way, and why wouldn’t they want another member just like them? It’s comfortable and harmonious, yes? It also is treacherous because it’s narrow.

I encourage teams to identify what they are missing rather than what they would like — that’s often very different. Understanding temperament is also appreciating how people are hard wired. Not to say they can‘t change but to accept who and what they are might just be their purist and best manifestation. One of my most memorable supervisees was a very smart, take no prisoners type of woman. She had strong convictions (based on experience) and little tolerance for hierarchy or political games. She delivered at many levels because of strong leadership. Top management could not tolerate her. “Jane, can’t you change her?” I would be asked over and over after she had made, yet another, very valid point in a less than subtle way. “I guess I could help tone her down, but why would I want to do that?” I had higher tolerance for her difference (in fact I loved it) than my bosses. When I left the company, soon after, so did she. It was a great loss, though I guess they were relieved and probably replaced her with someone more “their type.” In that company, like so many others, we preached difference but didn't live it.

The opportunity for greater diversity exists in almost every aspect of the workplace. Education, energy level and time, and temperament are but a few.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.