Exploring the Concept of Diversity

I have a Masters in Psychology of Mental Health and a foundation in Psychotherapy and Counselling. I am looking to deepen my understanding of diversity.
I am the founder and creative principal of lunch, a design and consulting company in Atlanta's West End neighbourhood. I am highly active across a range of diversity projects - founding the Black Weblog Awards, Revision Path (a weekly interview showcasing Black graphic and web designers), and 28 Days of the Web (a featured list of a different Black designers produced in conjunction with, and celebration of, Black History Month).
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20:23, 12 May 20 (edit: 20:24, 13 May 20)
This Taaalk was written on the first version of Taaalk in 2016.
The archive.org version is available here.
Joshua Summers
20:12, 13 May 20
I already have a personal answer to this question - but why do you think diversity is important?
Maurice Cherry
20:13, 13 May 20
Before we get into that, I think it's important to properly frame the concept of diversity. Diversity encompasses a spectrum of things—gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, biological sex, nationality, language, spirituality, physical appearance, etc.
So when people ask "why is diversity important?", it's because we're all different! This "melting pot" that we call the United States, for example, is a rich mix of cultures that influence everything from the food we eat to the policies that shape our country. Big, tall, short, small, Latino, Black, young, old, etc. -- we all have experiences and insight and knowledge borne out of these differences.
Diversity is important because those differences are what make us great.
Joshua Summers
20:13, 13 May 20
I feel you. I'd never thought of it that way. I'd always connected diversity with the idea of a struggle instead of a celebration.
Where do you see it on that scale? Do you feel like you're fighting for something (there are all these different types of people, the world is better when everyone's voice is heard), against something (there's a pressure against diversity that needs to be battled) or somewhere in the middle?
Maurice Cherry
20:13, 13 May 20
It's always a back and forth battle between those two states, and based on one's perspective, it can look different. People fight against tradition and people fight against progress. I don't know if there's ever going to be a true state of equilibrium.
What's different now is that the voices which were once in the minority now have the tools to make their voices heard just as much as those who have always held a place of power.
Joshua Summers
20:14, 13 May 20
That's true. The internet has done a wonderful job in terms of equalizing the distribution of voice.
For you how is it? A feeling of celebration or struggle? Or do you feel yourself also moving back and forth between those two states?
Maurice Cherry
20:14, 13 May 20
Oh, I definitely go back and forth! Anyone who does any sort of advocacy work knows you have to take the good with the bad. It's part of the job. Some days it's great! People see where you're coming from and what you're trying to do and support you wholeheartedly. And then there are days when you feel like you're the only one speaking out and no one's listening.
Joshua Summers
20:14, 13 May 20
I can imagine!
I just want to quickly back up to the start of us talking again and ask the same question I started with. I understand now that diversity is not about one group vs another but it's about the creation of the cocktail. What do you think that cocktail brings to the table that means it's worth working towards? (Again, I do believe it *is* worth it - I just want to hear your perspective). Why is diversity important?
Maurice Cherry
20:14, 13 May 20
One of the main benefits that diversity brings to the table is different viewpoints and different ways to solve problems. We live in a multicultural world, so it makes sense to have groups reflect the world we live in. And while diversity is important, inclusion is just as much of a factor.
For businesses, there are even studies which show that a diverse workforce (in terms of race and gender) is directly related to increased profits, revenue, more customers, higher market share, and greater profitability. What business wouldn't want those benefits?
Joshua Summers
20:15, 13 May 20
No, I don't think any sensible business wouldn't want that. More perspectives on a situation pretty much always leads to a better result. What do you mean when you say inclusion is just as much as a factor?
Also, when you're working on diversity related things, what is your mission? Say you were a startup, their might be some metric (or action) you'd be aiming for your users to achieve. Is this how you think about things? And if it is, what is that metric? Is it a realisation about the benefits of diversity in people's minds (perhaps those that haven't thought much about it), or is it more tangible, say every company in your area should have a diverse board of directors?
Maurice Cherry
20:15, 13 May 20
Inclusion is important because it helps foster a culture that supports and accepts diverse viewpoints. Having "diversity for diversity's sake" -- so to speak -- is futile if there's not a consideration for inclusion.
I'll give you an example. Let's look at some of the big Silicon Valley tech companies who have had these dismal single digit diversity percentages as it relates to their U.S.-based workforces. Some of these companies are working to correct this by increasing recruiting efforts, supporting coding bootcamps, etc. So in the next few years, we will start to see these numbers change for the better. Inclusion is important in this case because their corporate cultures will end up shifting to accommodate these demographic changes. It would be a huge disservice to have put forth the effort to diversify your workforce only to have your workplace culture end up driving those same people away.
I want to be clear though -- I am not a diversity consultant. I can give advice based off of my own experiences and from the experiences of dozens of designers and developers I've talked with, but it's just my advice. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won't. Your mileage may vary.
But let me answer your question about what happens when I work on diversity-related projects. The projects I've done (Black Weblog Awards, Revision Path) have been about showcasing, uplifting, and motivating Black digital creative people. That's the primary mission. I'm not looking at in terms of metrics or any other numbers like that. For me, success means that others are able to shine based off of this platform that I've built to recognize and celebrate their hard work, creativity, and sacrifice.
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