When the topic of diversity is discussed, often even the shyest people have something to say.
Why? Because we have all been discriminated against at some time for some reason. Yes, all of us — whether we know it or not. This means we have been blocked from opportunities; which in turn decreases the diversity within a team, group or organisation.
Why do people discriminate? Many reasons.
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The top reason is jealousy and second is fear of the unknown.
People are either intimidated by your abilities and therefore reject your participation — which unfortunately limits the diversity of talent within that situation.
Some also fear the unknown and whether they will understand it, accept it or be left out of whatever it is this new person will introduce.
Humans are ultimately self-centred creatures and our fight for survival in the business world can result in some decisions that defy common sense (to everyone else but that person) and are often actually damaging to the business’s capacity and ability.
Regardless, when it comes to ‘fixing’ the diversity issue you will see how quickly people fall into the dream of utopia: of a world where nobody ever differentiates or discriminates about anything.
You can see the bid for that utopian world in some school systems where children are no longer marked on their academic performance in case it discriminates against them.
In business, the dream of utopia has the risk of robbing us of valuable time and from the reality we currently live in: that is, that we will never have a perfectly diverse workforce. Instead we should be focusing on the realities:
1. Surviving the current situation
We need to accept the fact that there is no magic wand — or HR policy fairy dust — that can be waved over the business world to make discrimination vanish. Only then can we proceed to demolish the (many) barriers we currently face. Just talking about how it should be won’t help us succeed in what we are trying to achieve now.
2. Forget utopia
Stop dreaming about the ideal world and pick one issue that affects you and lead the way in making a realistic change so others can follow your lead.
3. Start with yourself
Treat others how you would like to be treated. Examine your own judgments of people, and don’t let them slide into discrimination — even if you’re on the receiving end from that person. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
4. Remember all the other barriers
Discrimination is not the only hurdle you will face. Stop looking to the left and right and stay focused on where you’re headed.
Don’t let the goal of diversity take over your efforts, and end up being an unproductive distraction in your journey.
Amanda Rose is the only ‘strategic connector’ in Australia, a brand strategist, speaker, host of Amanda Rose TV, founder and CEO of The Business Woman Media. Quoted as an “internet winning blogger” by TIME.com. Follow Amanda on Twitter.