Diversity – what does it really mean and what are the challenges?

Oct 28 / Jen Tyson & Rosemary (Rosie) Killip
The word is HOT right now. There is a lot of focus in organisations to embrace and encourage diversity on many levels, 4 main areas of focus often are: 

  • Gender diversity
  • Cultural diversity
  • Racial diversity
  • Generational diversity
In our view, the best individual for the role or job, is the best individual – regardless of gender, race, culture, or age. High performing, healthy teams are made up of a variety of personalities, backgrounds, skill sets, strengths and other diverse factors. 
According to dictionary.com the word Diversity is a noun meaning

  • The state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion.
  • Variety; multiformity.
  • The inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, colour, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc. Diversity in the workplace.
  • A point of difference.

Questions to ponder:

What have ‘we’ made diversity mean to us, to our organisation and to the communities we are involved in?
By being a woman, am I more focussed on pitching the ‘Get more women in leadership’ pitch, to notice that I may be perceived by another individual as excluding them?
We all have our own personal agendas, even those of us who pride ourselves on serving others, being inclusive, open minded, and good communicators. We all have a level of unconscious bias playing out at a subconscious level. As humans we make constant judgements about situations, people, and environments – we have a need to make everything mean something.

Check out a short video from Rosemary (Rosie) Killip on how there are some challenges in diversity and labels may not be serving us keeping an open mind to what is being said.
Some of the other challenges we have seen around organisations being focussed on diversity and inclusion are:

  • Box ticking – Attracting or recruiting to tick a box that says ‘ Make sure we are showing a number of XXX or XXX on staff or teams, rather than the right ‘person’ for the job. 
  • Companies boasting a percentage of a particular type of diversity without there being much opportunity for that percentage to contribute or add value, just bums on seats. 
  • Like Rosie Says in her video, if we are busy labelling people, we are missing some of the value of what they might bring. 
  • Diversity at all levels is not necessary or appropriate in all situations and sometimes a project team with a particular focus will require particular people on the team who on the outside look a little lopsided on a diversity scale, but it is necessary for the outcome of that project or objective. 
Be careful of box ticking and labelling – map out the skills required in your team and go find the people who fill those skill sets and strengths required
Be careful of the language you use in your head, in conversation with others and in your communication internally – that it is not including to the point of excluding others
If we look at the dictionary meaning again of the word, it actually means variety of opinions, views, cultures, genders, etc….VARIETY is the key
Focus on the variety, skill set, experience, and value – the diversity will happen.
When diversity happens or you step into a new environment buzzing with it, be sure to check your own unconscious bias often because diversity can mean different and different can be uncomfortable at least in the interim.

Remember as humans we gravitate towards comfort, the familiar, what we know. Regardless of whether that is providing good outcomes or not. When embracing diversity it can push us right out of our comfort zones, but what I do know is this, outside your comfort zone is where the magic and the growth happens for you individually but also for others.

Jen Tyson  and Rosemary (Rosie ) Killip
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