Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

The diversity paradox


Are there times where you feel on the outside of things, as if you don’t fit, don’t belong?  This can certainly be my own experience  for an assortment of reasons and, I have an inkling that it applies to just about all of us at some time or other.

Three weeks ago, along with my colleague, Michael Lassman of Equality Edge,  I co-facilitated a half day in-house seminar for a team of 80 directors and senior managers. The event was entitled “Beyond Diversity” and one of its aims was to raise awareness and build understanding of difference and delve deeper into the true nature of diversity.

As an opener, we launched a short, simple exercise which allowed people to identify ways in which they’d felt isolated or discriminated against at some time in their life, on the grounds of being “different” in some way  – whether at work, socially or elsewhere. They were then invited to hook up with others who had had similar experiences.

One man initially held back from participating. However, he found himself in a position where he didn’t “belong” as a result, and then decided to join in – a real time example!

The outcome of the exercise was astonishing as people recognized that they weren’t alone in their feelings of isolation or not belonging. The reasons and circumstances varied widely around the room and a great many fell outside the nine protected characteristics as defined by the Equalities Act of 2010. These include gender, age, race, disability – the list of all nine  can be viewed here.

What came to light was that issues of diversity apply to each and every one of us, not simply those who are in officially designated minorities.

The paradox emerges. Knowing that at times we all feel as if we don’t belong, can actually bring us together. It’s a near universal phenomenon, if only we’re given space to share it. That is precisely what happened in that seminar room. All 80 people felt they had a commonality in their experience of isolation at times and in various ways. By realising and understanding  that this also applied to virtually all their colleagues, they came together.

The exercise took less than ten minutes, yet I’m supremely confident that, along with further work we did that morning,  it will contribute to their becoming a far more effective management team.

I agree we have a long way still to go on issues such as, among others,  race inequality, gender biases and gay rights, but I suggest there is a near infinite number of other ways each individual can feel different. The more we can embrace the commonality we have in feeling those differences then, paradoxically, the more likely we will be to eventually fully reconcile them.

For more leading edge articles on diversity issues, read and subscribe to Michael Lassman’s  Equality Edge blog  here

www.chrismarkiewicz.com                 chris@chrismarkiewicz.com

TRAINING – COACHING – FACILITATION – SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

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