Diversity means having variety. It can be applied in many situations, however, it is commonly used to refer to involving people from different genders, sexual orientations, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds in any number of things, especially in the workplace. Diversity results in innovation, creativity and inclusiveness through including different perspectives. However, not everyone sees it this way. Misconceptions form usually through misunderstanding and lack of education, similar to misconceptions surrounding the feminist movement, such as believing that all feminists are man-haters. However, we can help ourselves and each other by examining common assumptions about diversity to learn how the world can do better. So, I have compiled a list below on what to be on the lookout for in society. Enjoy!
Misconception #1: Companies are Already Diverse
Recently, in some instances, there has been more initiative in increasing diversity in institutions such as schools and companies, however, there is still a homogeneous population in most industries. For example, in 2020, over 80% of all lawyers were white in the US. This is one of many industries lacking diversity and inclusiveness, demonstrating a homogeneous representation of a heterogeneous population. This lack of diversity, especially in an industry as important as law, is more common than most would be happy to admit. Additionally, just 41 out of 500 Fortune CEOs were female in 2021, just over 8%, and yet it’s the highest it’s ever been. Similarly to the aforementioned statistic, this shows that there needs to be an increase in diversity in all industries and companies in order to flourish, as there is not enough inclusivity at the moment. But what does diversity specifically refer to?
Misconception #2: Diversity Only Relates to Race and Gender
It is often believed that diversity just refers to variety in race and gender. Though these aspects are definitely important, it isn’t the whole truth, as there are many things that contribute to who an individual is in their own unique way. This needs to be taken into account when seeking to develop diversity. Other aspects that should be considered when trying to increase diversity and inclusivity are: age, nationality, sexuality, disability, religious beliefs, marital status, socioeconomic status, cultural background and thinking style - which are all important factors to consider when thinking about diversity. Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Duke Energy, Joni Davis, believes that diversity is, “a wide range of human differences both visible and invisible,”. We need to ensure that that is taken into consideration so that we can incorporate a wide range of diversity in all aspects of society.
Misconception #3: If not as many diverse people apply it’s okay that a place isn’t diverse
A common misconception is that if there are a large number of people applying or working at an institution, it’s okay if that place isn’t diverse. However, there could be many reasons why this is the case. People from diverse backgrounds may not feel welcome or encouraged to apply at a certain company; ways of preventing this can include revision of the recruiting process as well as looking over wording and visuals in advertising, to ensure that it sends an inclusive message. An example of this is possibly implementing blind resumes or applications which remove certain information which might be viewed subjectively. This would allow everyone to have equal opportunities based on their skills, and feel like their skills are being appreciated by the institutions that they apply to. Something else that workplaces can do is to make sure they are hiring and representing diverse people in advertising. This would prevent diverse people from thinking that they won’t fit in or that they aren’t encouraged to partake in a particular institution. This all ensures institutions don’t exclude or overlook diverse talents, as well as eliminating unknown biases in the workplace and recruiting parts of the institution, where there can still be issues today.
Misconception #4: Diversity excludes those not considered diverse
It can be believed that in a world where diversity is a priority, white males or other groups that aren’t normally considered “diverse” would be excluded from opportunities aligning with their skillset, because they have the ‘advantage’ and aren’t considered to be deserving. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Everyone is diverse in different ways, although not everyone has to deal with exclusion and discrimination. We can’t have full diversity, equity and inclusion without the participation of white men or any other group,” says Simma Lieberman, producer of the podcast Every Day Conversations on Race. It must be understood that diversity is based on wanting to include everyone, instead of excluding some. Additionally, it might be believed that a ‘diverse’ institution might turn away those who aren't diverse, no matter their qualifications. Nonetheless, these people are still valued as the focus is just on making sure that everyone is represented, benefitting the institition and the community within it.
Overall, diversity is something that will hopefully become more embedded into our society in the future. I hope that this article has helped you to better understand some of the misconceptions about it in our society, and in general become more informed on the topic.