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05.17.16When we talk about diversity, what exactly are we talking about?

Among my circle of friends, family, and colleagues, discussions about diversity are commonplace. We frequently engage in conversations about what diversity means in our personal lives, at work, at our children’s schools. I thrive on these conversations. The idea that our dialogue about this issue can spark collaboration, innovation, and change that alters the way that people interact with one another on a multitude of levels leaves me walking away feeling empowered.

But as empowering as these conversations are, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that sometimes we make huge assumptions that we are all talking about the same thing. In hindsight, the disconnect makes a bit of sense. Heck, over the years, my own definition of diversity has changed and evolved. Currently, I’m working with this one:

“Diversity is an understanding of the multiple layers of our individual and collective identities that make us unique- unique in our thoughts, perceptions, actions, and so forth”.

We don’t all have to agree on a singular definition of diversity, but here’s my short list of things to consider when engaging in issues about diversity:

It’s more than representation. Simply having numerical representation of people from particular racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, or other groups is not the sum of diversity. Diversity becomes meaningful for all involved when people from all groups and backgrounds feel included and valued as part of the group. They are heard, cared about, and given the space to be their true selves. This in turn, helps to influence the group’s practices, policies, norms, etc.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Difference isn’t bad. Yes, differences in values, norms, beliefs, perceptions, and the like can lead to conflict. But, conflict, when addressed carefully, and with a mindset focused on deepening understanding and building bridges, isn’t a bad thing either. Rather, conflict is often the vehicle that helps us to think about the perspective of others more intently.

DIT. Otherwise known as Diversity in Thought pays official homage to the idea that we all think differently. Even if we share experiences and backgrounds, we are highly likely to have unique thoughts about the world, how to address and solve problems, and everything else. DIT serves as a reminder to not make assumptions that people who look like you, live where you live, etc. share your same thoughts, convictions, and beliefs.

Be gracious. Diversity is a gift. One that allows us to grow, develop, and experience things in new ways. Be grateful.  After all, if we were all alike, life would be pretty boring.

Have other thoughts about what diversity is, or is not? Share them! And for more tips on promoting diversity in your school, workplace, community group, and more, follow us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/projectedquity/

 

Kandace Forrester is co-founder, managing partner and contributing author at PROJECT EDQUITY.

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