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Chief’s View: Diversity makes us stronger

Chief Master Sgt. Kathleen R. Buckner

Chief Master Sgt. Kathleen R. Buckner

Citizen Airman/June 2012 -- Do you know the definition of diversity? Do you understand the difference between diversity and equal opportunity?

Many people think diversity and equal opportunity are the same thing. There is an important distinction between the two, however, and whenever I am unsure, I turn to the resident experts and trusted sources for assistance. My thanks goes out to Master Sgt. Heather Bradley of the 349th Air Mobility Wing equal opportunity office at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., for helping me, and you, understand the difference.

Diversity management helps leaders maximize their employees' potential and talents. These talents stem from various factors such as race, religion, sex, age, national origin or culture, just to name a few.

The Air Force paradigm includes any characteristic that can add dimensions to a workplace to include regional background, occupational experience, education, etc. When organizations recognize their environment as being diverse, leaders are pooling and growing individuals based on their members' unique skill sets. Individual differences are viewed as strengths rather than weaknesses. Organizations begin to experience more inclusion, integration and an empowered talent pool. Diverse organizations have strategies in place at every level to ensure they are practicing, thinking and promoting a healthy and diverse work force. 

Equal opportunity is a tool to ensure members are being treated with dignity and respect. It's about helping members reach their highest potential while enhancing mission readiness.

The EO office is in place to provide support and a protective measure against unlawful discrimination based on a protected category. The categories for military members are race, religion, national origin, gender and color.

On the civilian side of the Air Force family, we include the aforementioned categories plus age (40 and above) as well as mental and physical disability. Equal opportunity is the instrument used in assuring that those who may not look like us, think like us or act like us have the option to contribute to the greater good and be valued for their contributions.

Today's Air Force diversity program has strategies in place at every level to ensure that as an organization we are promoting and practicing diversity and evaluating our dedication to a healthy and diverse work force. Every installation has an equal opportunity office to provide support and answer your questions. Both diversity and EO have a critical place in our Air Force, and I hope this has helped you appreciate the difference between the two and understand the importance of both.

A good friend of mine once told me, "Diversity makes us and our organizations stronger. We all need to include and mentor those different from ourselves." Our differences must be recognized, understood and valued. It's simple to understand that if I surround myself with those who are different from me, I will get differing opinions and perspectives. And, it is with those differing perspectives that I am challenged to think beyond my own experiences to develop and deliver a fundamentally stronger Air Force Reserve enlisted force.

Seek out those who are different from you. Consider them for opportunities on your staff. Surround yourself with those who have backgrounds different from yours. We will all be better for it! I appreciate your continued support -- thank you for all that you do!