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November 21, 2008

Diversity Training: Has it worked?

Diversity My Pennsylvania country-boy husband has sat through several diversity trainings at work. He has no problem mingling in a crowd of diverse cultures even without being told to do it. But do you think I can get him to take me out to a Japanese steak house or for Jamaican cuisine?

Time Magazine tells us that diversity training has not worked. The money, the time, the HUGE efforts have made little difference in our business world. According to the article, the one thing that has made a difference is mentorship, a single individual assigned the task of promoting and maintaining the programs that educate and encourage diversity -- someone whose job it is EVERYDAY to work at prejudice and un-equalities in the workplace.

The article also quotes R. Roosevelt Thomas, founder of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, saying that corporate America must first redefine the word. "Diversity means differences and similarities," he says, be they in race, gender or corporate culture. Thomas teaches executives to focus on skills and not familiarity. But don't most people move towards the familiar? How does that change?

Many people, by nature, are resistant to change. When you tell them they are forced to go to more salsa nights and asian buffets, you are telling them that their tastes and preferences are wrong, which isn't going to sit well with anyone. But, we all know that when people open up to trying new things, both in food and friends, pleasant surprises often result. But who is that watchdog? Who is the educator if it doesn't come natural -- from a spouse to a corporate executive? Who is going to assign the individual to the task and make them accountable?

Personally, I think we moms must be a major agent of change. Some of our spouses are the executives (or corporate leaders in training) who will be challenged to open up to new cultures for the sake of business and harmony in the workplace. Our children might be those corporate leaders who need to learn at home how to appreciate and accept new flavors in our society.

I will admit that I don't incorporate enough international flavor in our home. I do need to be challenged to throw in a little more seasoning and garlic and couscous and garbanzo beans and soy sauce. Those little steps on my own will make a difference when my children look at the lunches of friends and see a variety of leftovers coming from home in lunchboxes. And, just because my husband will take me on trips but not out for international cuisine, doesn't mean I can't take my children or meet friends out once in awhile for my own enjoyment. Just the mention of where I am going will continue to embed those messages that this is a valid part of our world.

I think fear of diversity stems from fear of rejection. By adding it in little by little, constantly, it takes the form of personal mentorship from the very basis of where we live, eat, sleep, relax. Those message constantly entering the brain waves are what make a difference because then diversity or variety (if we need a "new" word) does become the familiar. It becomes the way we live and appreciate the world around us.

I love diversity. I don't need to be trained in it. I do need to be reminded to incorporate in our lives so that my children and husband can appreciate it too.  That being said, I am conservative, spiritually and politically. It is not a popular stance and there are many things I believe that "having an open mind" means crossing some important lines for me. It does not mean I can't love my fellow person and have peace over dim sum.

What are you doing to encourage diversity or variety in your home, in your world, especially around resistant members of your family - from picky eaters to diverse-decor-challenged loved ones?

I would love your thoughts and ideas. I have some mentoring to do.

Original Philly Moms Blog Post

Sarah blogs regularily at Genesis Moments, is a featured storyteller at Story of My Life, offers beauty product reviews at Chic-Critique, and shares frugal tips at Blissfully Domestic.


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