Diversity is personal. Diversity is about who you are and who I am and all of the ways in which we differ from everyone else in the crowd. Diversity is about our character and our characteristics. We may have many or all of the features that our family circle, work environment or culture deems typical or normal; and yet what makes us the individuals we are is as much about diversity, as much a part of each of us, as it is for someone who does not fit the family, work or cultural molds.
Diversity is also about awareness. Not recognizing the influence of innate or learned aspects of who you are does not mean that these aspects of self aren’t influencing how you think, feel and act. Delving into the sources of your behaviors, be they external and visible or wholly internal, highlights the ways in which you operate differently due to your diversity. This mirror may be cloudy when you first hold it up, however, even a cloudy mirror can reflect back some of the features that make you the unique person you are.
While diversity is personal, it isn’t to be taken personally. That is, your way of being doesn’t have to be wrong for mine to be right – we can both be the way we are and have that be the “right” way to be. However this sense that there is just one right way to be is quite pervasive; I would argue that it flows from our focus on scarcity. With a scarcity mindset, we tend to see things as “either/or” propositions. Under this framework, when your gift, characteristic or choice is recognized as valid, the pool of validation shrinks and leaving less available to validate my gifts, characteristics or choices. In other words, we cannot both be the “right” way: either your gifts, characteristics and choices are the best ones or mine are. This mindset says that my being acknowledged puts me “one up” and you “one down.”
Switching our thinking to a “both/and” standpoint allows us to accept the valuing of others for who they are as a general benefit to all. When your gift, characteristic or choice is recognized, the pool of available validation is enriched. Thus, rather than seeing a personal affront in the celebration of someone else’s way of being, we can rejoice with them in the abundance that exists among us. This alternative mindset says that there is always sufficient validation to go around and that we all are “one up” when any one of us is acknowledged for our value.
In keeping diversity personal and in not taking it personally, three key qualities are openness, curiosity and appreciation. How can I acknowledge the various parts of myself – my gifts, my identities and my challenges – and work to leverage them? How can I acknowledge the gifts, identities and challenges of the important others in my workplace, my team, my home or my playtime – and work to see that we get the best from our joint endeavors? Creating an environment where diversity is truly part of the fabric means that everyone gains when we proclaim the ways in which we differ. Because it is only once our diversities are recognized that we can begin to leverage them. This is the diversity dividend.
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.