Many organizations say they value diversity, but not everyone defines the term in the same way. Figuring out what some of the key terms mean to your organization is an important part of creating an inclusive organization, says Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid, a consultant (and facilitator, and trainer, and motivational speaker, and...) from Fridley, Minnesota. Abdul-Wahid will present the preconference program Diversity Training--Foundations for an Effective Diverse Team at the Trustees and Administrators Institutes in February 2019. He discussed issues related to diversity, culture and the workplace with editor Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS.
Define some of the key terms and concepts around diversity that organizations need to understand.
What's important to understand is that organizations have to define these terms for themselves. Terms can mean different things depending on the field. In the field of social work, trauma means one thing; in the ER, trauma means something different. We assume that we're using the same definitions and concepts when we're using the same terms, but we're not.
Diversity simply means differences. If you and I were standing and looking at each other, we could list a hundred thousand differences between us--age, height, etc. In the workplace, we're talking about areas of difference that may make a difference in whether you get a promotion or an interview or whether you're considered for leadership positions. That's what we need to focus on. What are the differences that may be making a difference in your organization?
Unfortunately, we talk about culture as if it's something that other people have. When you recognize that we are all operating from a range of cultural influences, we can have different conversations about things like "professionalism" and "respect" rather than treating these as if they are some universally accepted fact that is set in stone. We now can look at them as concepts rooted in culture that can look different in different places, times and situations. Culture isn't just food, music or artifacts. Those are things that our cultures produce. Culture is the lived experience underneath that produced those, and that lived experience is what you bump up against in the workplace.
Inclusion is the feeling that you belong. An inclusive organization means that you value the people, you value their practices, and you try to maximize people's skills and abilities so that you can get the best out of them.