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What are you really saying when you claim to be a champion of “diversity.”
If you were expecting a blog post about the dance troupe Diversity and their Britain’s Got Talent performance then I apologise for fooling you. I actually wrote this before that whole situation even occurred. But I promise, this is still a good read.
It’s now become a buzzword that gets thrown around in education, politics, the workplace. I think we can all pretty much come to a consensus on what it means to have a diverse environment. Just to clarify though, and set the foundations for this blog post, to me, diversity means a selection of people from different, racial, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds including people of different genders and sexual orientation. Of course there may be more categories you can use to determine diversity but I think the ones we seem to emphasise are race, gender and sexual orientation.
But have you ever thought why we automatically see diversity as a good thing. Why are there schemes in place to widen diversity in particular environments. I think when it comes down to it, the goal of diversity is rooted in good intentions. Speaking specifically about the UK, we are a population made up of truly diverse people. One of the reasons why I love living in London is that it is becoming such a multi-cultural city. So when it comes to certain institutions in the country it only make sense that we want it to represent the wider population and ensure that everyone is being given an equal opportunity. But let’s also not be blinded to the fact that the UK is still a predominantly white country. So it makes sense that most institutions will be dominated by white people, which is okay. When I think about diversity I don’t think about making environments less white, it’s just more about increasing representation.
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Over time though I have come to realise that representation and diversity can often be a fallacy. I have always said that diversity can only be a good thing for any business. But when I say this, I don’t necessarily mean that it needs to be made up of people from different racial backgrounds or sexual orientations. I’m more talking about a diversity of thought. And honestly, I think when it comes down to it this is truly the real reason why we should want diversity in our institutions. This does come with the presumption however that because someone looks different or is from a different cultural background then they will automatically think different. But this can still be true for two people who look the same and come from the same cultural background. Is this making any sense? To give you an example. A white man and a black man who grew up in the same area, went to the same school and come from similar economic backgrounds may be more similar than two white guys who look exactly the same but live in completely different areas and are on opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum. You see my point? As an interviewer trying to fill different roles, I don’t want two people on my team that think similarly even if they look different. For the success of the business I’m going to want to build a team of people that have varying perspectives and can challenge each others ideas.
So when you take this into account, sure it’s great to walk into an office and see people who all look different and represent different cultures and races but is this diversity enough to truly benefit a business? Having said this, I think different industries and institutions do have more of a role to play when it comes to diversity. For example, the modelling industry is a key player in demonstrating representation and I am a firm believer that we should be advocating for models of different genders, races and sizes. This is because modelling relies predominantly on the visual representation of humans and for people to simply see a wide array of models on the cover of magazines is important. It’s validating and gives a more accurate portrayal of beauty standards in society (Newsflash: beauty comes in all shapes and sizes). I think a similar case can be made for Film, TV and simply any industry where we are portraying a creative visual of the world around us. I get the comfort of just simply wanting to see people like you working in the industry.
But if you ask me if I want to see more diversity in politics, the answer is a simple “no”. This is if we’re specifically talking about race. To assume that someone represents me simply because we share the same skin colour is, in my opinion, delusional. Trust me, there are plenty of black people out there I disagree with and wouldn’t want making important political decisions. Also, when it comes to politics not all the issues are about race. So I think to be solely focused on this could be a bit narrow minded. This isn’t to say though that I don’t want equal opportunities for people no matter their background. Of course I do. But ultimately the people in power should be people that are capable of doing the job that is required of them and race, gender or sexual orientation plays no part in that. You can be a straight man who is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
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Diversity isn’t always based simply on what you can see. When you think of diversity in it’s true sense you could argue that no matter where you go it is going to be a diverse environment just simply because of the fact that no two people are exactly the same. But it’s also dependent on what you want to measure diversity by. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you only base it on one aspect, and especially if you’re not thinking about what impact diversity is having on your institution. Hiring people just to tick some boxes isn’t true diversity. Instead work on making your environment a place where it is going to attract the diversity you’re looking for. If you’re only attracting white straight men or black lesbian women think about why that might be. Maybe those black lesbian women are just the perfect people you’re looking for and if so I think that is okay. As a consumer you want the best product or service irrespective of the background of the person who is providing it.
And a question I’ve really been battling with is “Is diversity true diversity if it has to be forced?” I mean I really don’t know, but what I do know is that I’d much rather see an institution that is naturally attracting a wide array of talent as opposed to one that has to give certain demographics an advantage just to prove that they are diverse. But that is just me.
I don’t know, that was one big mish mash of ideas and I don’t know if that made a lot of sense. I’ve been having to question myself a lot on my own thoughts about diversity and even though my ideas and thoughts are still evolving and changing I think they’ve advanced enough where I feel comfortable to share them. As someone who has definitely benefitted from diversity and inclusion schemes, I will say that I am very grateful for them and I do understand why they exist. I just hope they are grounded in the right reasons and isn’t just an act of virtue signalling. Because there is nothing more disgusting than exploiting minority demographics for your own gain. Actively attempting to become diverse just so you can say that you’re diverse as some sort of USP is just a cycle of empty self fulfilment.