Diversity – It’s all about perspective

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcome Forbes

Life would be pretty boring if we were all the same. We’d all speak the same language, have the same skin colour, be the same age, have the same experience, share the same values, and think the same things. We aren’t all the same – and the more diverse we are, the stronger we are as a group. The experience and perspective that diversity can bring to any workplace situation is unmatched. Yes, they can be both positive and negative, but the negative experiences help us learn new things and gain new perspective.

Many companies have recognized the strength of diversity and pride themselves on their diverse cultures. In 1993, Microsoft launched the GLEAM – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender resource group.  GLEAM is now about 700 people large, and hosts various events along with employee initiatives within Microsoft. (Microsoft, 2012).

Diversity, however, is more than sexual orientation or ethnic background (as may sometimes be the default thought). In 2008, Samsung highlighted their recognition of strength in diversity, when they received the “True Company” award for excellent performance in disabled employment. (Samsung, 2009). Samsung’s “Respecting Global Diversity” report published in 2009 can be found here.

While embracing diversity as a strength is a trait critical to success, it may not be something that can be taught to each employee. Part of having a diverse culture means accepting those who have no value for diversity. (Yeah, wrap your head around that one!) In his article, Peter Bregman points out that “Diversity training doesn’t extinguish prejudice. It promotes it.” Perhaps it’s true, bringing the elephant in the room to everybody’s attention only makes it more visible. (Bregman, 2012).

Bregman makes a good point to conclude – “Instead of seeing people as categories, we need to see people as people. Stop training people to be more accepting of diversity. It’s too conceptual, and it doesn’t work.” (Bregman, 2012). Yes! I could not agree more! People are only “different” when we point out their differences. John is disabled when we make a point to mention John is in a wheelchair. Jane is Hispanic when we say she is Hispanic. John is a man, and Jane is a woman – that’s all.

Diversity is not a policy, not an attempt to eliminate conformity, and it is not about hiring people with different skin colours and beliefs – diversity is simply perspective. Diversity brings different perspective to different situations.  The more perspective any situation or decision can have, the more likely it is that a widely accepted solution will come about.

 

 

 

 

Sources

Bregman, P. (2012, March 12). Diversity Training Doesn’t Work. Harvard Business Blog. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/03/diversity-training-doesnt-work.html

Microsoft (n.d.). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://www.microsoft.com/about/diversity/en/us/programs/ergen/gleam.aspx

Samsung (2009). Respecting Global Diversity. Samsung. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from http://www.samsung.com/us/aboutsamsung/sustainability/integritymanagement/download/RespectingGlobalDiversity.pdf

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One Response to Diversity – It’s all about perspective

  1. I definitely agree that a workplace that consists of a diverse group of employees is very important, especially when it comes to working in a team. Having a group brings different views, and experiences to the table which can be of benefit when trying to generating ideas. Although I agree that it is a smart concept to “stop training people to be more accepting of diversity”, I feel that it would be a huge endeavour to implement such an initiative. The reason for that is because celebrating diversity and each other’s cultures and beliefs is a fundamental part of the workplace today which is evident in my job experience. Therefore, completely changing the makeup of an organization may be difficult to achieve. Also, Introducing this new concept to an organization may be difficult because there will definitely be opposition from individuals.

    Here is an article that I found which discusses why celebrating diversity is beneficial in the workplace:
    http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/jobmarket/diversity/div.html

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