The big demographic news in recent weeks is the so-called tipping point -- more non-white than white children were born from July 2010 to July 2011. Responses to this inevitable development include speculation about a commensurate shift in power to, and acquisition of leadership by, more immigrants and minorities. But demographics is not necessarily destiny.
Consider this recently published infographic, showing how poorly Congress reflects the socioeconomic, gender, religious, racial, and ethnic diversity of the American public. Only 6 percent of those in Congress are Latino, but 16 percent of the country is Latino. And women are a paltry 17 percent of Congress, despite being 51 percent of the population.
The gap in representation exists in the private sector as well. At the same time that the number of immigrant entrepreneurs is growing, minority representation in the leadership of major corporations is sorely lacking. A 2010 survey conducted by the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., found that minorities make up 15 percent of corporate boards, and 18 percent of corporate directors are women.
For the representation gap to be filled in Congress and on corporate boards, in local and state governments, and in nonprofit and philanthropic leadership ranks, we need intentional and dedicated efforts in three areas:
- The acknowledgment and dismantling of the structural inequities that prevent women and minorities from participation in politics and leadership positions.
- Cross-cultural coalition-building to ensure that a minority-majority nation is not simply a society of fractured groups competing with each other for power.
- Discourse around the impact of losing our minority "identity" and the advantages and disadvantages that brings.