© 2016 | Decide Diversity
Diversity is on the agenda of every conference and the topic of every leadership meeting. Leaders often ask, "How do we improve diversity?" or "How do we increase inclusionary behaviors?" or "How do we find diverse candidates?" The questions are endless!
To solve this complex problem, diversity leaders decided to group people together into categories based on similarities in an attempt to understand the experiences they have in the workplace. We compare men to women, white people to people of color, cis gender and straight to LGBTQ, and so forth.
But, it's not really working the way we imagined. Something is missing!
People are complex! No matter how we categorize or group people based on their identity, we leave some behind. It's time to ditch the old way of thinking about diversity and adopt an intersectional viewpoint.
Remember the Periodic Table of Elements from High School Chemistry class? Demetria had the pleasure (insert sarcasm) of majoring in Chemistry for 2.5 years and learned so much about the elements, their chemical properties, and the importance of these elements in the world. She spent so many semesters learning about individual elements, like Oxygen (chemical element O). In short, she learned that Oxygen is really important. All living organisms need oxygen to survive.
We can all agree that Oxygen is important, but if we only focused on Oxygen, we would never understand water or H20, which is equally important for living organisms. Hydrogen and Oxygen come together to create a unique compound.
A light bulb went off in Demetria's head as she thought about the dysfunctional way we think about diversity. Do we need to understand race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity and how they exist in the world and workplace? Absolutely! The problem is that no one fits neatly into only that category. We are multi-dimensional and bring that complexity along with us everywhere. The Table of Diversity takes into account the individual elements of diversity, but is vital for remembering that we are intersectional.
We all have one! What's yours?
Your Diversity Formula is just like your DNA, special only to you! Forget the stereotypes! Forget the sweeping categorizations! Let's get back to the basics of diversity: individuality and uniqueness.
To get your Diversity Formula, go through each category and write down your Diversity Element. You may find that you don't "fit" neatly into one particular element. The element at the bottom of each column signifies "Other". Feel free to use it how you want, there is no right or wrong answer.
When you are finished, you will probably have a really long line of upper- and lowercase letters like this:
BlFeSaNvSuNpSGyOpMiChMs Yes! This is great!
Within each Diversity Element, there are various layers of privilege and marginalization. For example, in the African American community, hair texture and skin tone can be a major sources of oppression. If you have an "undesirable" hair texture, you may face additional types of marginalization. So your Diversity Formula may start to look like this:
with each of the numbers representing a type of oppression you face in that particular community.
Remember, there is no right or wrong answer! Use your Diversity Formula as a way to share your individuality with your colleague or leader. We are each uniquely qualified to solve a company's most pressing issues. To learn about more ways to use the Table of Diversity in hiring, retaining, and developing diverse talent, click here!