Same, Same, But Different: Diversity in Communities, Workplaces and Schools

Contributed by Deb Kline.

The business world has extolled the benefits of diversity for the past decade or more. Encouraged by the findings of several studies, many large corporations have held diversity trainings, have diversity officers, celebrate various cultures and ethnic groups with special events, days or weeks. Despite all this, however, according to a 2017 report by Diversity Best Practices, 93% of Fortune 1000 companies are led by men, most of whom are overwhelmingly white. (For more statistics on diversity in the workplace, see this link.)

Research on diversity in communities tends to be at two ends of the spectrum. On one hand, some have found a higher level of altruism in multicultural communities: their members are more likely to help a neighbor; to quickly band together when a disaster strikes; they are more likely to be accepting of differences. On the other hand, others have found that there is a higher level of distrust, that the ethnic – and economic – makeup of many neighborhoods can change entirely when new neighbors of different races, religions, etc. move in.

Undoubtedly, deeply rooted prejudices are difficult to overcome, and while some people may be quite obvious about their attitudes, others may be shocked to find a subconscious current of racism exists even in the most open-hearted of us: for example, a sense of discomfort when found alone in an unguarded place with a POC; the decision not to ask for help even if help is needed because the only people available look or act substantially different from anyone you know.

What makes the difference in whether a business, community or even a person authentically embraces diversity, whether diversity becomes a thin veneer of platitudes, or whether there’s even a wall intended to keep any “OTHER” out?

Occasionally, there is a single catalyst that sparks acceptance of others, but more broadly, it takes effort. It takes recognition of our own fears and prejudices, and the willingness to share, to listen, to understand and even celebrate that we can successfully live, work and thrive together.

Call to Action

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