Diversity in the Workplace Goes Passed Skin Colour

What Embracing Diversity Looks Like

Tavian Jean-Pierre

25 days ago|4 min read

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

It is good to see companies taking diversity more seriously. A diverse workforce leads to better collaboration, insights and more profits.

However, whenever we think of diversity, we often think of skin colour. When measuring how diverse a workplace is, we first look for people that look different.

Although it is true that looking different does have a part to play in diversity, it is not the full story. As a matter of fact, I am one of the only black people in my office. However, I feel as unique as everyone else is.

Most of the diversity in organisations goes way past the things we can visibly see. The type of thinking that tells us that diversity should be visible is shallow, to say the least. We are all unique and different in our own ways, and diversity those not look like a multicultural organisation.

Almost every diversity day at my school focused on the things that were visible. They wanted people to bring in the flags of their country, wear their cultural dress and cook their home food. Although all of these things are wonderful, it is the unseen diversity that really makes a difference.

Embracing diversity is not just about ensuring that ethnic minorities are represented in leadership positions. It is not only focused on differences we can see with our eyes. It is about being understanding of different backgrounds, insights and beliefs.

The start of a diverse culture at work is not our visible differences, but our ability to accept differences. In this article, I will highlight the key things that helped me feel that my company had a diverse culture.

Despite being one of the only black people in the office, I am proud to say I am embraced just as everyone else is. And here are the two things my leaders did that helped build this culture.

1. They Focused on Stories

One of the first things that stood out to me was that their diversity was driven by the stories they told. All of them were diverse in their own way because they all came from different backgrounds and shared unique stories.

The stories we tell ourselves and others are important to our individuality. The stories we tell ourselves influence our own persona and who we believe we are. And the stories we tell others impact how others represent us in their mind.

Focussing on the stories of others is essential for embracing and building diverse workplaces. My managers would constantly share stories over coffee and listen to the stories I told. It was in listening they found areas that they thought I would be best suited.

By listening attentively to the stories others tell, we are able to match them with work that they may find interesting. Being black had nothing to do with the stories I told my managers. Instead, being brought up in London and living in a rough area did.

Learning to focus on the stories others tell is one thing, but doing it without judgement is another. A lot of the time, people are quick to judge the stories of others. Unfortunately, this can often lead to a lack of respect and prejudice towards others in your team.

When organisations seek to embrace stories, they will build diverse working environments. Stories hold everything we are and everything we want to be. And ensuring every story is heard is part of building a collaborative workplace.

Diversity goes past our skin colour. In fact, it has less to do with our skin colour than we think. Taking time to listen to the stories of different cultures, upbringing and education will bring about the diversity we all seek.

My leaders were able to take the time to listen to my stories. In doing so, they made me feel welcome and gave me opportunities where they believed I could grow. And it all began by giving me a voice.

2. They Embraced Change

Diversity is not about remaining stagnant. It is about removing stigma and moving forward to a more inclusive environment. Part of doing this requires individuals to be adaptable and willing to change.

When I joined my team, I noticed how willing they were to change current ways of working to make me feel comfortable. One of the first things they did was encourage me to share my interest.

At first, I felt nervous because I was the youngest in the team. I also did not come from the same areas they were from. So, I felt as though I would not be able to fit in.

However, after sharing my interest in football and basketball, my manager messaged asking what teams were good to watch. During COVID-19, he let me know that he was enjoying the games and even had a favourite player to watch.

Not only did my team partake in my interest, but they respected my values. After finding out I was Christian, they were willing to find out more. We were even able to have appropriate laughs about misunderstandings of Christianity.

Being able to adapt to changes in your team dynamic is one way that you can ensure diversity is centric to your organisation’s message. It also allows for team members who think differently from you to feel part of the ecosystem.

Closing Thoughts

Visible diversity looks good in pictures, but that is as far as it goes. True diversity comes when we seek to embrace the invisible differences in one another.

That may be our cultures, upbringings, education and political stance. Although many of these differences can lead to clashes, they are vital for innovation and good collaboration.

So, take time out to think about how you are letting unique voices become heard in your organisation. How often are you listening to the stories of those who are different to you?

Then, think about how willing you are to embrace change. Are you intimidated by unique insights or changes in culture? By becoming aware of these two things and acting positively, you will begin to build a strong culture that encourages diversity.

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Tavian Jean-Pierre

A Visionary and Writer that hopes to inspire leaders, change ideologies, and encourage others to be their best selves.

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