WARNING: If you do not know me, you may think this is an offensive post
This morning I had to answer a diversity questionnaire and I think we are asking the wrong questions again. First, I get the sociology of what got us to this point. I’m not someone with “my head in the sand.” I understand the last several hundred years of history and while I don’t necessarily agree with the extremity of the pendulum swing, within our current constructs, I get it.
But we are compartmentalizing and judging people based on demographics that are unchangeable with the ultimate goal of improving our organizations through better representation and ideas. Can you change your disability status? Can you change your biological gender? Can you go back and “un-become” a veteran? Can you change who your ancestors are or the life they lived? The answer to all of these is a resounding “no.” These generalizations do not take into account different people’s lives, experiences, and abilities. I’ll give you an example. I have a close friend who grew up in an upper-middle-class, predominantly “white” (I still don’t understand why we in 2022 still use this term), suburban neighborhood and went to a top 5 Georgia High School and top university in the state. From a demographics standpoint, they are considered diverse, however, from a psychographic standpoint, his viewpoint is highly aligned with his “nurtured” environment. This isn’t a bad thing but points out that if we want true diversity, we will need to focus on other-than-demographic identifiers.
Additionally, this kind of diversity measure flies in the face of what we have come to learn about nature vs. nurture, the neuroplasticity of the brain, and the fixed vs. growth mindset. All of these studies show that, while there are some immutable traits, your brain and more psychologically, your mind, will, and emotions all respond to nurture more than nature, are open to a growth mindset, and show amazing neuroplasticity. To me, this seems like we are doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. We seem to hire diverse workforces yet still have the same business outcomes.
The question is how we measure true diversity. First, we have to start asking the right questions. It isn’t whether or not you are in a certain people group, but how your life has informed your viewpoints. It isn’t whether you are a man or woman, but how a difference in thinking positions you as an asset to an organization. It isn’t about disability but about overcoming, etc. So, to that end, do you think it is time for a new approach to diversity?
2 thoughts on “Are we asking the wrong questions again?”
Interesting perspective! I’d venture your thought process is close to suggesting taking into account sociological and economical standings and evaluating those at a higher weight than strictly “what we look like”. Some DEI programs focus on increasing diversity in order to provide an equitable opportunity for people of all backgrounds, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, a lot of executive and director level folks really only care about the bottom line. The bottom line here is that additional and differing perspectives strengthen a company – both in culture and in profit. You make a good point that if you have individuals who all look different, but were raised the same and given the same opportunities in life, you may end up with extremely similar perspectives. Good food for thought!
Exactly. If we aren’t careful, we will still just have a group of different looking people with the same perspectives.