This post’s focus is on diversity in the workplace. This has been a hot topic for at least the past 15 years and I am committed to the notion of equality and fairness for all, including white males. After all, isn’t that what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the words, “All men are created equal”? Do you think they only meant white-skinned, Protestant, males of European descent? Let’s hope not. What I believe is that most of the isms (racism, sexism, ageism, etc.) come from two camps--ignorance from a lack of direct experience and fear.
Those who fall into the first category are people who are basing their belief system on very limited and possibly negative experiences with members of the target group or no direct experience at all. Our allegiance to our biases may come from loyalty or connection to others who have expressed strong prejudices against the target group. When we are raised in a household or a segment of society where stereotypes are freely expressed about a particular group, then it becomes uncomfortable to stand against those belief systems, particularly when it leaves us standing against loved ones and those we have known our whole lives.
Also, it’s possible to have had a single or a few negative experiences with members of a particular group. It’s human nature to distance ourselves from wrongdoing so when we are involved in a negative experience, we attempt to categorize how our offender is different from us. If we can latch onto race, ethnicity, gender or age, then it’s somehow a relief to be separate from the perpetrator. The problem with this, however, is that we are developing broad, generalized prejudicial beliefs about a group of people that is based on just one or a few of its members. How would you like to be judged by what a few members or your identified group do?
For those in the second group, fear develops from the scarcity mentality. How often have I heard it stated that the United States should close its borders! “We have enough immigrants and they are taking away all the jobs from good, tax-paying American citizens.” These are the people who believe that since they got theirs, no one else should be allowed to have a part of the promised rewards. After all, there won’t be enough for everyone. There is a fear that something will be taken from them.
There is an even bigger fear that mostly comes from an unconscious place. When you are a member of the majority group and that group has been oppressing minority groups for whatever reason, there is always a fear that if the minority group(s) gain power, then they may do to the majority what was done to them. This is not a valid reason not to make right what has been wrong. It may be human nature to seek power but as a people, as human beings, we must seek ways to create power with each other instead of craving power over each other. That is what diversity in the workplace is all about. All people coming together--bringing with them their unique talents, skills and abilities in an effort to create the best possible products and services for a diverse marketplace. Isn’t that a concept you can get behind? Let’s start today.
Click here to purchase Kim's book, Leveraging Diversity at Work.