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26 Nov
2018
Posted in: Diversity
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Diversity – Hope for the Future

Diversity, Hope for the Future, blog by Bev Scott

A Possible Future

I recently returned from Hawaii where I saw the possible future. The Hawaiian population has one of the widest cultural blend of race and ethnicities in the world. The old label of the US population as a “melting pot” is truly represented in Hawaii. The white population of Hawaii is drawn from the Protestant Missionaries who had a profound effect on the native Hawaiian culture. American businessmen who established the plantations to grow sugar, pineapple and coffee became the main drivers of immigration. Because disease decimated the native Hawaiian population, plantation owners sought labor from other sources. Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, Koreans, Puerto Rico and Portuguese joined native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in the diversity of the labor force. One can attribute cultural diversity and pluralism in Hawaii to its rich history of immigration.

Leadership in the island appears to be drawn from multiple segments of the population. Governors of the State of Hawaii have been drawn from Filipino, Japanese, white and Hawaiian backgrounds and include one woman. From all accounts the multi-ethnic population of Hawaii lives peaceably together without violence, hatred or bigotry. Although I am sure it is not perfect, it is a great role model!

Diversity and Decision Making

My colleague, Kim Barnes, pointed out the research by Erik Larsen which reinforces the importance of diversity in better decision-making.

Diversity, Decision-making

According to the research, teams outperform individual decision makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time. Teams that also include a wide range of ages and different geographic locations make better business decisions 87% of the time.[1]

Bringing together men and women who have diverse ages and backgrounds makes for the best decision-making.

From the natural world, we learn about biodiversity. Biodiversity boosts productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.

The United States, not just the state of Hawaii, is a country formed by immigrants from many other countries in the world. It is, then, no accident then that the U.S. produces successful innovators and is an economic power house. Like the natural world where a mixture of species contributes to biological vigor, the cultural mixture of our population has contributed to vibrant creativity and innovation.

Diversity, biodiversity

Losing the Benefits of Diversity

Today, many of us worry about losing this vibrant creativity, openness and humanity. We have been horrified by mass shootings fueled by hatred and bigotry; most of us reject the use of racial and ethnic stereotypes. Yet no disease in the United States is more in need of curing than racism. It breeds irrational fears that in turn lead to political divisiveness, violence and economic inequality. We decry the dysfunction, division and inaction we see in the Congress and reject the words, actions and immorality of the President.

We voice our support for compassion, equality, democracy and the right to vote. Yet, it is not just the radical right, the Republicans or the white non-voters who have contributed to this state of affairs. It is also people like me, and perhaps you, the reader, that make it unlikely that we will cure racism, stop bigotry and hatred or heal the divisiveness that has torn our country apart. Instead, we may slide into increasing isolation, anger and racist outbursts.

 

We can continue to live in comfort in an economically homogenous neighborhood, socialize with those who are educated and think like us, attend worship services with those who hold common beliefs and work with colleagues in similar professions. I am happy for the success of Democratic candidates and, the diversity of those candidates. I don’t hate those who have different beliefs or political affiliations. I do hope that a “bluer” political environment might mean some change in the direction of my values. But will a “blue” political result in much change?

Diversity, Hope for the Future

We tend to see “the other” as a stranger, even an opponent and we label them criminal, illegal, immoral or savage. Because we lack exposure or experience, we feel threatened by those we don’t know. Fear unexpressed can lead to rage, attack and violence. We don’t have encouragement to seek out strangers, to find ways to overcome our fear, to include those who threaten us.

We lack diversity in our lives and most of us don’t seek it out. It is easier, more comfortable and less threatening to be with people who are mostly like us, who speak a similar language, who represent similar values. In our homogeneous bubbles, we let our fears influence where we live, where we go and who we meet limiting our experience and exposure to those who are different than we are. That limited exposure and experience feeds fear, ignorance and racism.

Valuing Diversity and Difference

Above, I presented the real-world examples of the benefits diversity supported by the research data on advantages of diverse teams. I believe we need to expand the diversity in our lives before we will be willing to change and address racism and the horrors of violence. We must include those who are different from ourselves, seek out perspectives to help us solve the issues that overwhelm us, explore radical options to break down structural barriers and listen with openness to voices demanding change.Diversity, Hope, Love

I don’t have a list of steps to begin this process. But I think we must begin by talking, listening and as Valerie Kaur, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, advocates, loving. She promotes love as a public ethic and the wellspring for social change. We must love ourselves, love others and love our opponents. If we are open to exchange ideas, explore options, value and love each other, we can create alternatives that will honor and respect the diversity of life, and move us toward a possible future of opportunity, creativity, innovation, peace, compassion and equality.


[1] Erik Larsen, “New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision-making at Work.” Forbes Magazine, September 21, 2017

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