What can I do to support diversity?

Strange question, I know. I have to fill out the diversity section on my job goals for the year and this is a new category. I’m not sure what to put as a goal. I don’t work directly with the public and I don’t make any hiring deciisions. I am unsure how there is anyway for me to “support diversity” through my current position. Anyone have anything that sounds good or do you need more of my job description in order to answer this one?


WAG - supporting coworkers who need to take time of for family or religious reasons.

Find a co-worker with a different cultural background and ask them for lunch spot recommendations. Offer to buy them lunch in exchange for them pointing out their favorites and/or explaining the menu to you. Most cultures are proud of their cuisine and many bonding experiences are tied to food rituals in various parts of the world(it’s mostly the US where we eat in our cars while we rush from one place to another). Next week, or month, or whatever, pick a different co-worker, and do the same thing.

Not only will this encourage bonding amongst you and your co-workers, but it will show you respect their culture’s contributions to one of life’s biggest challenges, keeping people fed. I still find time to meet with former co-workers for lunch because we became such good friends over our exotic(to me) meals and they in turn asked me for recommendations and found some new things too. A lunch which brings up memories of their home and family engenders conversation which turns from work to the personal, and creates a stronger friendship, so workplace conflicts drop. Each of you is willing to do more, listen closer, and otherwise be more supportive of each other because of the increased levels of friendship. And it all starts with something as simple as curiosity into how another culture feeds itself.


Make ice cream!

Volunteer in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

  1. I will take a course in Spanish at the local high school’s evening classes because an increasing number of our customers and colleagues don’t speak English as a first language and its important to try and bridge the gap.

  2. I will volunteer for the company’s annual Habitat for Humanity project.

  3. I will encourage minority co-workers to enter the company’s mentoring program to help our employees move up in the company.

Worked for me.

Of course, I am not entirely sure how number 2 helped with diversity. It more or less reinforced segregation by making sure a poor family stayed in a poor neighborhood. They just get a really nice house out of it.

If you’re white-- be aware of white privilege and show coworkers of color that you are an ally. Not through flamboyant gestures, but by being sensitive and reactive to veiled racist or racially ignorant statements by others (which, frankly, when you start paying attention, are legion).

OK, I’ll ask, There’s a goal on your job description titled “diversity”?

Or, offer to be a mentor. And include workers with disabilities as a part of this initiative.

Not sure that Samm is looking for that much of a commitment. My read is that the OP is struggling with a formality thrust onto employees by HR. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Look on the bright side. Sometimes things that improve diversity can be more fun than things that improve, say, ISO compliance.

It sounds like you could start with “learn about company’s diversity programs.” What does your company mean by diversity? What do they have going on? Or ask your manager this question before you set the goal and pick something.

Offering to be a mentor could be a good idea. Depending on your company, it might not be a big time commitment (or it might, so find out). For example, it could involve being shadowed for a day and the occasional lunch. Being a mentor to interns can be especially time limited. Or you could seek a mentor yourself from a background different from yours, allowing you to build a relationship with someone more senior in the company.

There are also books you can read about race, gender, etc. in the workplace. Since you don’t hire or interact with the public, I assume most of your workplace interaction is with coworkers. Learning about diversity can coincide well with learning about other interpersonal skills, like conflict resolution and negotiation. One book I’d particularly recommend is called *The 10 Lenses * by Mark Williams. It is about 10 different ways people approach issues of diversity. http://www.amazon.com/10-Lenses-Multicultural-Business-Development/dp/1892123592

Date as many as possible persons of different ethnicities.

A small hijack, if I may- what would someone who didn’t support diversity do at your company?

Harriet is really on to something. Diversity is way, way more stimulating and rewarding to work on than ISO 9000 certification processes.

Three excellent books to fuel your thinking on some civil rights issues would be “Slaves in the Family”, “The White Use of Blacks in America”, and “In a Different Voice”.

Additionally, if you’re white-- recognize that not all of your peers of the same skin color share your culture. I know in a lot of areas, people assume that anyone that they meet that’s the same skin color as them share the same culture, but it’s not often the case in some areas. Terms like “white privilege” and “white guilt” assume that all white people have the same cultural background and that we’re all equally bland and lacking in diversity; it also proves fairly offensive to those of us who are of families with relatively recent immigrant status and diverse cultural backgrounds. Much like those of color, not every white person is alike.

I agree with the ideas to get to know your coworkers better and learn about their own home cultures, especially the one through food. I’ve seen in the past with some family friends that their workplaces (mostly schools and other “places of learning”) will have them do a small presentation on their home country or their parents’ country of origin so that coworkers (and students in some cases) can learn more about the cultures present in their area. Learning about foods of the area can be a really fun experience as well; my horizons as a gourmand have been greatly widened by being acquainted over the years with people from many cultural backgrounds.

If you are not white, be aware that not all white people are same, and try to not reverse that same behavior onto them. Many, many, “white” people are recent immigrants, or the children of such and have not grown up with ANY privilege whatsoever. Try not to be ignorant of the fact that a Russian is a world away in both language and culture from an Englishman, who have vast cultural gaps with the Scandinavians etc.

If you work in an environment where most of your co-workers are of the “generic white American” variety, be aware that they may be both ignorant, and curious about your background. Sharing helps bridge the gap. Remember that it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that they understand your background, not the other way around. If you never say anything to the contrary, it isn’t fair for you to get pissy when they call you a “Mexican” when you are from Ecuador; they don’t know any better and cannot tell the differences in dialect in a language they don’t speak.

Be different?

Your company may have a diversity action committee. If so, see if you can get involved. At least be aware of the events they sponsor and make an effort to attend them.

Our diversity action committee has done things like bring in Irish folk bands for St. Patrick’s day - you don’t need to be a Black lesbian woman in a wheelchair to participate.

From some projects I’ve worked on (a local project as well as a Habitat for Humanity), the explanation is that it opposes gentrification of a neighborhood, wherein folks just get segregated elsewhere, usually in a worse area than the original neighborhood. In addition, by adding value to the neighborhood, you raise the standard of living for others living there-- that family got a house, and the next-door neighbor gets an increase in their own home value. Finally, by providing a home for a needy family, that family is able to establish themselves financially (cheaper than renting) and socially (a stable address), improving their lives both immediately and in the long-term; from one house I worked on years ago, the home-building/renovating was the toehold in the financial mountain the family needed to send their oldest one off to college.

Read up on a bunch of religions and ethnic backgrounds and then assign them to people and have them start living that way, at least while at work. Make sure they have the appropriate food, music and outfits.

“Everyone, this is Steve, but starting next week he’ll be known as Phonesavanh Oudomphonephaivanh. Please update your email lists accordingly…”