Learning To Learn About Diversity

by Anja Uitdehaag

“Diversity isn’t just sound social policy – diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world.” – Justin Trudeau

I very much like the way the University of Maryland defines “diversity”:

“Diversity is “otherness”, or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups.”

We all know intuitively that diversity matters.

It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms.

Today’s workforce and marketplace is a dynamic mix of different cultures, ages, races, lifestyles, genders and more.

For companies to succeed in the global marketplace, they must make the most of the full range of their people. Companies must attract and retain the right skills, the best minds, all the required resources – and that means diversity.

Let’s have a closer look at McKinsey’s report “Diversity Matters” dated December 2014.

The findings are clear:

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians;
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians;
  • While certain industries perform better on gender diversity and other industries on ethnic and racial diversity, no industry or company is in the top quartile on both dimensions; and
  • The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.

Diversity of viewpoints, background, education, culture, experience, beliefs and attitudes matter and all help produce a superior product in a diverse and global market place. Maximizing the potential of a diverse workforce is not only a social imperative, but is also a competitive advantage. When an organization TRULY engages with diversity there is a great deal of work to be done.

Truly embracing diversity is to come to a position of belief that the ways in which we all differ:

  • Are a reality that should not and must not be ignored;
  • Do not equal “difficult” and “problem”;
  • Mean that we can accept that people see the world differently and that those world-views have equal validity;
  • Are not threatening;
  • Are mainly positive things rather than negative;
  • Are to be inclusive rather than exclusive;
  • Are likely to involve some personal change.

Approaching learning about diversity with an open mind will be challenging and at times could be even a painful process.

It is not a comfortable experience to learn that we have prejudices we need to deal with. It is not comfortable to find that our own view of the world is just one of many, and those other views are equally valid. How prepared are you to be exposed to issues and realities that may make feel you uncomfortable and will challenge your attitudes, values, beliefs and prejudices?

Sources:

  • The Diversity Training Handbook by Phil Clements & John Jones
  • Managing Cultural Differences; Global Leadership Strategies by Robert T. Moran, Philip R. Harris and Sarah V. Moran
  • McKinsey Report “Diversity Matters”, 2014

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections on 2016, or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection

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