What Does Cultural Diversity Mean?
There is, surprisingly, more than one definition of diversity. Wikipedia notes that cultural diversity can mean the respect that is shown to another culture, race or ethnicity. It can also mean that a particular area (i.e. a workplace, school, city, state or country) has a mix of people of various backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. Ironically, the mix of cultures can in some cases eventually lead to a lack of cultural diversity, as people begin to lose some of their original culture and blend in with another. For example, immigrants to another country often find their children do not retain the traditions and/or language of their original culture. Even adults who move to another country may adopt new habits that conflict with their original culture.
The Benefits of Cultural Diversity in General
Cultural diversity impacts life in many ways. The UK is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world and experts note that immigrants have brought in changes to the foods people eat, the music people listen to and the type of clothes people wear. In short, cultural diversity has introduced new ideas and ways of doing things, offering more options and/or improvements to the status quo.
Cultural diversity can also have a positive impact on eco-friendly programs and efforts. Different people use land and natural resources in different ways. Cultural diversity in any given area of a city or country means that resources will not be in short supply, as not everyone will be attempting to use the same things in the same way. In fact, it has been noted that developing countries that have a culturally diverse population (i.e. India, Indonesia, China) tend to have an advantage over developed countries when it comes to efforts to preserve the land and reduce dependence on fossil fuels
The Advantages of Cultural Diversity at School
There are many advantage of helping children learn to define diversity and embrace it at an early age. Children are impressionable and the education they receive in their early years can set the pace for the attitudes they embrace later on in life. Children who attend school with others of different backgrounds can:
- Learn how to make friends with people who are different than they are
- Learn tolerance at an early age
- Learn how to work with people from different walks of life and gain valuable communication skills that will benefit them regardless of the profession they choose
- Learn more about the world around them
- Learn a second or third language
Naturally, many of these benefits will not come about on their own. Teachers and principals alike will need to take measures to help children learn how to get along and make friends with other children from different backgrounds. It is also important for schools to look for ways to introduce varying perspectives on history and culture to children so that they understand the way that other people view their world and why they hold to certain customs and values.
The Advantages of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace
Cultural diversity in the workplace is not just nice; it is in many cases integral to a company’s success. Studies have found that diversity in the workplace drives innovation, which in turn spurs company growth. Additionally, a committee of problem solvers from various backgrounds can do better solving complex problems than a committee of high ability problem solves from the same or similar backgrounds.
Hiring workers from different countries and ethnicities can also enable a company to reach customers that it would not be able to communicate with otherwise. As the world becoming increasingly globalized and more and more companies set up company websites and online retail sites, the ability to communicate with people from all over the world is an invaluable one that can mean the difference between business growth and stagnation. Given this fact, it is not surprising that many companies look not only at a job candidate’s diploma but also factors such as whether the person in question can speak a second or third language.
Additionally, people from diverse backgrounds can not only speak the language of their original country but also know how to build business relationships with people from their country. This is important, as each country has different traditions, mores, do’s and don’ts and it is all too easy for a person who is not familiar with a particular culture to make seemingly small business mistakes that can have a long-term negative impact on the business.
It is also interesting to note that one “diverse definition” has nothing to do with a person’s background and everything to do with his or her habits, leadership style and manner of operating. As the book “Think like Zuck” brings out, Facebook only become truly successful when Mark Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg. Hiring a woman with a completely different style of operating enabled Mark Zuckerberg to focus on his strengths while learning new skills and ways of operating. At the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg’s innovative ideas and ways of doing things were also imperative to making Facebook the successful company it is today.
This same principle can be applied to almost any company. While a small business may not be able to hire people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, a wise boss will look for people who have skills that he or she does not possess. Opposite personalities can create the same dynamics of innovation and progress as can be created by people from different countries and ethnic backgrounds.
Challenges of Diversity
Diversity, like all good things, can bring about challenges that would not have been present otherwise. It is important for schools and workplaces to be aware of potential problems that can arise so that these can be solve as speedily as possible.
Children of different backgrounds need different approaches to help them understand their scholastic lessons. Teachers may need to adapt the way material is presented and/or the way children are tested to ensure that everyone is learning and making progress. In some cases, a school may need to offer remedial classes and/or other forms of help for children who are adjusting to a new environment.
Diversity in the workplace can often lead to communication problems as people from different backgrounds learn to communicate with each other. This is made especially difficult if one or more people in the workplace have pre-conceived ideas about working with individuals of a particular gender, race, ethnicity or nationality. In many cases, problems arise when employees are closed off to new product ideas, new ways of doing things and other innovations that naturally come about when people of diverse backgrounds work together for an extended period of time.
Managers may need to take diversity training in order to better understand and work with their employees. It may also be necessary to make some policy adaptations in order to ensure that everyone is productive and happy in their work.
What is diversity? This is not an easy question to answer, as there is more than one diversity definition. In short, diversity means working with people who are different than you are. Naturally, it takes time, effort and a lot of communication to learn how to get along and work well with someone of a different gender, race, ethnicity, nationality or personality. However, the benefits of doing so are more than worth it. Studies and the personal experiences of successful entrepreneurs have clearly shown that working with people who are different than you stimulates innovation, progress and success.
The most important thing to remember when learning to work with someone is “The Golden Rule”. If you treat others as you would like to be treated, then it is easy to overcome cultural barriers and differences and learn how to embrace new people, experiences and ideas.