Entry by Lauren Nader
Diversity is generally defined as ‘the condition or fact of being different or varied’ or in the social study sense, as a ‘mixture of races and religions that make up a group of people’ (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019).
The word itself is one that holds a great amount of power and importance because it emphasises the combination of differences among individuals. No one human being is exactly the same and that is what makes us all unique in our own way. It is important to not only acknowledge differences but to also ensure that these differences are seen through a positive lens. For example, the different skin colours whether this be Black, Brown, or White should be regarded as equal and seen as a celebration of a person’s heritage and roots. Diversity allows the beauty of differences to be regarded and emphasised so that we can work towards a more inclusive world. Steps4Change states that ‘as we continue to grow as a society, we are starting to see the importance of bringing different races, nationalities, religions, and sexes together as one team and community’ (n.d.). The words ‘team’ and ‘community’ are key here because they suggest a collaborative setting, one that does not segregate or discriminate against others. Through diverse environments, individuals will be exposed to a range of differences among one another, which should be a safe space for appreciation of all types of individuals. Equality and inclusivity should be present regardless of whether gender, race, religion, age, social class, sexual orientation or physcial ability differs among others.
It is critical to comprehend the complete meaning of diversity in order to acknowledge its true importance. It could be argued that the word gets thrown around a lot without a real understanding of what it means and why it can be utilised as a powerful tool for bringing about a positive change. The fact that more and more cities and countries are becoming diversified allows for cultural differences to be regarded more as the norm, and diminishes any room for prejudices to exist and take over. Populations are becoming more multicultural, which allows for minority groups to be seen as more socially-acceptable and thus welcomed by pre-existing settlers within a community. For example, the migration of Indians to England was once frowned upon by many Brits and ‘on arrival here they often faced racism and discrimination, which was not illegal in Britain until 1965’, leading to the creation of unions in order to demand for rights such as ‘the first Indian Workers’ Association established in the 1930s’ (Historic England, n.d.). In fact, in 2020, the extremity of these inequalities were conveyed through stating that ‘Black and Muslim minorities have twice the unemployment rate of their white British peers and are twice as likely to live in overcrowded housing’ (Heath and Richards, 2020). This exemplifies how unfair the system is to minoritised groups. In order to combat this, a ‘cohort of migrants were heavily involved in the development of the UK’s antiracist and trade union movements in the 1950s and 60s, drawing on experiences from anti-colonial struggles which were then applied to organise these communities in the UK’ (BBC, n.d.). From their actions, we can learn how to combat racism and prejudice in our own contexts (Heath and Richards, 2020), in particular the discriminatory practices that occur in the workplace and education system.
Historically, ‘diversity finds its origin in the word “diverse”, meaning different’ (Racing Toward Diversity, n.d.). Through examining the etymology of diversity, it is inferred that it is derived from Latin roots through the idea of diversity meaning “facing both ways” (Poole, 2018). Traditionally, the meaning of the word was purely associated with things that differ however it has been expanded on over time. Nowadays, its definition lies heavily on an inclusion of contrasts between cultures and races; essentially vocalising the prominence of differing identities.
Interestingly, the word has had multiple meanings over time within the English language, ‘it has meant difference, variety, unlikeness, distinction, perversity, evil, and mischief over the years, not to mention a couple of technical electrical and radio usage’ (O’Connor and Kellerman, 2021). This reflects the complexity of the meaning of the word and shows the evolution of it to become one that could arguably be considered of a superior importance to any previous definition. Diversity in the sense of differences among individuals is what contributes to society and allows for a more interesting world. If everyone looked the same, sounded the same and adopted the same beliefs then society would be very mundane. There would be no room for development and learning, and thus a lack of individuality and creativity.
In 2016, lawyer and business woman Verna Myers enlightened Cleveland Bar that ‘diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance’ (Cho, 2016). She once stated this as she explained the difference between inclusion existing as a must or a want. The invitation to a party is standard, something that most people can achieve because a diverse element is required, however being asked to dance is the portrayal of individuals wanting to include these people and advocating for this. In her popular 2014 TED Talk titled ‘How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly towards them’, Myers asks the audience to ‘expand their professional and social circles’ in terms of its diversity (Myers, 2014). Individuals should assess those who they spend time with and discover whether they unconsciously or consciously choose white people. People should leave their comfort zones and begin to engage with more black people and other people of colour without stereotyping them. She then goes on to say that ‘when we see something, we have to have the courage to say something even to the people we love’ (Myers, 2014). She is here reflecting on the unconscious biases that may have existed through history and continue to exist and become inherited through generations as children listen and learn the same values as their parents and grandparents. If you hear an unjust comment being made such as one that is racist, then do not be afraid to speak out about this; even though this may be a family member or a close friend. The lack of speaking up is a large reason why racism continues to exist today. This particular talk received a large 4.4 million views, as viewers were attracted to Myers’ speech on preventing violence against young black men, as she asks that unconscious biases be removed. Minority groups such as black men should be seen and heard, they should not be dismissed in society – this is pure negligence and a continuation of a lack of cultural and ethnic awareness.
Diversity in relation to pedagogy and higher education within the UK
It is clear that racism continues to exist, and a large reason for this is because of the lack of knowledge provided and absorbed by individuals. It is important that children learn from a young age, and a large amount of this education should be performed at school. ‘Schools…where knowledge and education is imparted are the perfect place to teach children the importance of diversity and how to be more accepting. Young minds can be developed to be accepting of diversity and understanding that there is a completely new and different world out there’ (Racing Toward Diversity, n.d.). Whilst children learn the core subjects such as English and Maths, there should also be dedicated time for cultural studies e.g. diversity within the history primary curriculum, to ensure that children are constantly learning about real-life. Some parents either do not know or do not want to know why diversity should be spoken about with their children, particularly those parents of non-ethnic minority children as they may not be exposed to people of colour. Just because these children do not have to deal with the struggles of racism does not mean that they should not be aware of it, they should acknowledge it and understand how to prevent it. As well as this, cultural events such as multi-cultural evenings are a key part of education for children because it allows them to showcase their traditional customs such as costume, food, language and music to their peers, teachers and parents. This helps to increase their exposure to different cultures and is a method to allow them to celebrate beauty and reduce racism.
In relation to higher education, the inclusion of country/culture/religion/sexual orientation/physical ability based societies provided by universities are a prime example of why representation is important. For example, cultural-based societies such as Afghan and Bangladesh societies, faith-based societies such as Islamic societies and Hindu societies and liberation-based societies such as LGBTI+ societies. The fact that these societies exist allow students to feel more of a sense of belonging as they can celebrate their interests among those of common interests or even those who also appreciate certain interests and want to show support for them. Through this, universities facilitate a more diverse student union space where they can show their support for their students regardless of who they identify as. As well as this, events ran by universities such as culture weeks for ethnic minority groups and pride week for those within the LGBTQ+ community. These events advocate for recognition of minority groups as well as allow a learning platform for those who want to further their knowledge on subjects which they may have neglected in the past.
Responses to diversity have also adapted overtime in particular, within the workplace where companies are moving towards adopting inclusive and anti-discrimination policies. While it is important for organisations to ensure that their employees originate from a range of backgrounds to allow a fairer opportunity to those who are more prone to face challenges, diversity is often only valued when there are clear benefits for the company as a whole (i.e in terms of funding and marketing). However, we cannot dismiss that in essence, diversity means that ‘if there are different thinking styles then there will be different ways of approaching the same problem with a more creative solution’ (Racing Toward Diversity, n.d.). Furthermore, through employees within a workforce speaking different languages, allows them to effectively communicate with organisations abroad in their own language, which may impress third-party organisations. They will be able to understand language and cultural norms and thus could help ‘in promoting one’s business and makes it possible to take it to an international level’ (Racing Toward Diversity, n.d.).
Andrews, A. (2017). ‘Diversity’ Is Losing Its Meaning—What Should We Say Instead? [online] Pacific Standard. Available at: https://psmag.com/news/diversity-is-losing-its-meaning-what-should-we-say-instead
BBC UK (n.d.). BAME We’re Not the Same: Indian. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/creativediversity/nuance-in-bame/indian
Cambridge Dictionary (2019). DIVERSITY | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Cambridge.org. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/diversity
Cho, J.H. (2016). Diversity is being invited to the party and asked to dance. [online] Available at: https://www.cleveland.com/business/2016/05/diversity_is_being_invited_to.html
Heath, A. and Richards, L. (2020). How racist is Britain today? What the evidence tells us. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/how-racist-is-britain-today-what-the-evidence-tells-us-141657
Historic England (n.d.). Racism and Resistance | Historic England. [online] historicengland.org.uk. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/another-england/a-brief-history/racism-and-resistance
Myers, V. (2014). How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our_biases_walk_boldly_toward_them?language=en
O’Connor, P.T. and Kellerman, S. (2021). The Grammarphobia Blog: How diverse is diversity? [online] Available at: https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2014/04/diversity.html
Poole, S. (2018). Does the word ‘diversity’ really only have one meaning? [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/13/diversity-one-meaning-lionel-shriver-steven-poole#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDiversity%E2%80%9D%20comes%20from%20the%20Latin
Racing Toward Diversity (n.d.). Diversity finds its origin in the word ‘diverse’, meaning different. [online] Available at: https://www.racingtowarddiversity.com/blog/2013/1/30/diversity-finds-its-origin-in-the-word-diverse-meaning-diffe.html
Steps4Change (n.d.). Why is Diversity So Important. [online] Available at: https://www.steps4change.org/why-is-diversity-so-important
The Historical Association (2021). Film: What is diversity within the primary history curriculum? [online] Available at: https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/687/resource/10035/film-what-is-diversity-within-the-primary-history
Boakgomo, K (2020). Diversity is being asked to the Party; Inclusion is being asked to dance. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diversity-being-asked-party-inclusion-dance-kele-boakgomo (a LinkedIn post about the importance of inclusion and breaking barriers)
Hills, F. (2020). Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. [online] Available at: https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2020/09/23/diversity-being-invited-the-party-inclusion-being-asked-dance (an article about how companies can incorporate diversity within their organisations)
White, G.B. (2015). Millennials Have a Weak Definition of ‘Diversity’. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/the-weakening-definition-of-diversity/393080 (an article that explores the meaning of diversity and alternative perspectives towards its true definition)
YouTube (2016). What Does Diversity Mean to You? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgezT8HPJJM (a short video about what diversity means to certain ethnic-minority individuals at the University at Buffalo, US)
Testimony from a student:
Recently, I co-created and co-directed a Diversity Fashion Show, at the University of Westminster, celebrating the beauty of diversity through fashion and artefacts. This project consisted of a range of groups reflecting ethnic minorities such as a Halo effect group symbolising Black Afro hair, Hijab group representing both Muslim men and women, a South East Asian group focusing on anti-Asian hate crime, as well as speeches on sexism towards women of colour. These fixations allowed for like-minded people to work together in a way that allows them to share their challenges with an audience in order to speak out against obstacles they have faced and ways to combat these. — A second year student from Business Management (Marketing)
Questions to ask:
- How would you define diversity today?
- What does a diverse world look like to you?
- Do you believe that you are an advocate for diversity? If yes, how? If no, after reading this definition would you be willing to adapt your belief?
- Is there anything you could do to incorporate more diversity into your everyday life, whether this be at home, place of education or at work?