Is ‘Diversity’ enough?


It’s funny how things seem to pop up in waves, and this week I have happened upon a number of comments, discussions, and articles around Diversity. I’m not sure that it’s the good old ‘cookie police’ doing a great job of tracking what I’m looking at and sending me more on the same subject, or just pure happenstance. It has led me to do a bit of thinking around it that I’d very much like to share.

I found the following definition of diversity (note the little ‘d’) which explains it as …

“… diversity encompasses acceptance and respect, understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment...[and] understanding each other “

And finally very simply “...moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”

This is very much how I feel, and it’s with this viewpoint in mind that I view the current efforts around ‘Diversity’ (with the big ‘D’) and, to a certain extent find them lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some tremendous efforts that are being made throughout many areas and industries, but I just don’t think we’re doing enough of the right things enough of the time.

Let me cite a couple of examples:

  • The Oscars: Reviewing the details around the ’lack of diversity’ surrounding the nominees and then reviewing what has happened in previous years we haven’t really moved on. For instance, flick through YouTube and you’ll see videos about the same thing over the years, indeed there is a cringe-worthy parody on the subject, entitled ‘1977 Oscars - Chevy Chase Busted his Ass’, which refers to the final seconds and has nothing to do with 2:55 second speech itself. Almost 40 years on we’re still in the same place.

  • Stereotyping: O2’s HR Director, Ann Pickering appeared on BBC World recently (28th January 2016), to talk about research they had conducted that showed deeply engrained and outdated stereotypes are still alive and kicking … in children as young as four.

The backlash to the Oscars will start to move the issues forward, but until the ‘old guard’ moves on and those voting have the diversity that is seen in the wealth of offerings, we might not move forward as quickly as we’d like. Within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the gender bias is being addressed; this week for instance Accenture hosted ‘Girls in STEM’ for 1800 girls, aged 11-15, at location across UK and Ireland, and Ann Pickering and the O2 team already offer both internal and external programmes to support and promote girls and women.