Thursday, February 18, 2016

What Does Diversity Mean to You?

Diversity is a buzzword nowadays, especially in Silicon Valley.  Fortunately, many are starting to really wake up to its importance, but are still confused about what it is or how to improve it.  I thought I'd ask myself, "What does diversity mean to me?"

Diversity is beautiful.  Diversity is challenging.  Ultimately, I think it means that while we are all a part of the same human species, we experience life differently due to a variety of and often combination of factors.  Those differences provide each of us with distinct advantages and disadvantages.  These in part give each of us unique perspectives on what it means to be human.  Often those unique perspectives, especially when coming from a disempowered position, are frequently ignored or devalued, which becomes problematic.  For example, growing up as a female comes with a variety of societal expectations that girls should be quiet, polite, and humble.  Consequently, women are socialized against exerting traditionally defined masculine leadership norms such as self-promotion or assertive negotiation.  As a result, we see that men dominate the top leadership positions in most sectors of society.

When reflecting upon how to define diversity, a relevant question then becomes how does one self-identify in terms of diversity? I identify as a heterosexual, White, Catholic, middle-class, highly educated, able bodied, native English speaker, Irish-American, young professional, single, cisgender female Democrat. Those are all heavily loaded terms.  Some of those categories give me great privileges, and depending on the context, others do not grant me such privileges.

While I claim to be aware of my privileges and actively seek to be an ally to others who are different from me, I am not perfect.  Sometimes I say or do things are not entirely inclusive, and I'm most grateful when others help me see that.  I am constantly learning and growing in what in means to be an ally.

What does diversity mean to you? I would love to hear your comments please! Thank you!