The Many Layers of Diversity

Ink on hue watercolor paper – Words: Beth Robinette

Diversity has become an important topic, a buzz word, and a goal for organizations to strive towards. Amazing things happen when people in the room come together to design something that works for everyone. The challenge starts when we decide who belongs in that room.

The term diversity is often associated with minorities from a demographic perspective. People who are under represented due to physical or lifestyle choices. And yes, that is one way to define diversity, it is one of it’s layers. If we want to be COMPLETELY inclusive we need to include people who think different, have grown up different, have lived in multiple countries and those who were educated in a different way. Diversity is not just about the way people look or the life choices they make. Diversity is about how people think, how they learned, what they value and what their accumulated experiences in life have taught them.

I was staying with friends, overnight, so I brushed my teeth in the bathroom. The husband came in and turned off the water as I was brushing. He then told me about building wells in Uganda so they would have clean drinking water. Without that well village women had to travel two miles to carry home two buckets of river water. They made that walk four times a day per family. That experience gave him a different perspective on running water and how not to waste it. He is the type of guy I want in the room when building something, but he is a white, middle aged male and might otherwise be discounted because he does not look diverse or seems to be well represented.

I worked with a woman who did fabulous things and always brought a fresh perspective to her outputs. She always focused on easy, simple, uncomplicated things. When I asked her why, many years later, she told me she was homeless for a year in high school. She and her Mom lived in a car. I had no idea. She is the one I want in the room giving us clean, simple solutions, however she is a middle aged white woman who might be outplayed by someone more diverse of a different color.

To truly embrace being diverse we need to not only look, we have to delve deep to understand backgrounds, upbringings, experiences, the way people think, AND we have to create an environment where those things can thrive while working together. Bringing diversity into our life is one thing, helping it to thrive and building it within our lives is another task altogether. So as you face the word diversity, think layers and take the time to delve not the people you mean to include. They may or may not be covering all the layers in which diversity is encompassed. Think big, think small, think beyond the surfaces and above all get to know people so YOU can include as many ways of thinking as possible into the next things you want to build.

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