This page provides some news and information related to the topic of diversity in 2023.
There are people who support diversity initiatives and those who resist them. This document seeks to provide basic information about diversity.
A brief overview of the diversity criticisms is provided, but the rest of this document focuses on benefits of diversity.
Creating diversity in business, education, and non-profit groups is equally beneficial to those who are not diversity hires. People typically enjoy working with a diverse team of colleagues. Those who bring in unique viewpoints stimulate our mind and sometimes offer creative unique solutions that make everyone’s life easier.
One day we may reach the point where diversity efforts are no longer needed because everyone has equal access, resources, and opportunities. Even when we reach that point, we will still want to have diversity as a priority.
Some regions of the United States will organically have diversity, such as cities with diverse populations. Organizations and businesses will likely reflect those local diverse populations. Other areas of the country will be skewed to have an imbalance perhaps of age, or race, or religion. In those places, diversity efforts will need to be intentional.
Critics of Diversity
It’s important to be aware of the resistance to diversity that some people have. In general, critics of diversity initiatives focus on three perceived issues:
- JOBS — There’s a concern about less qualified people getting jobs because of a desired identity quota rather than being qualified for the job. This is combined with a fear of immigrants taking jobs.
- PROTECTION — There’s a belief that people in certain protected status groups get special legal protections that others don’t have.
- REJECTION — Those who don’t accept and serve the people and ideologies of different identity groups are at risk of being ‘cancelled’ and otherwise treated harshly. This could include losing a job or having a business fail as the result of national attention and attacks on social media.
The pursuit of diversity has various goals. Here are five important foundations of diversity. We could evaluate a diversity effort by how well the following key considerations are addressed.
- ACCESS — The pursuit of diversity strives to promote access to jobs, education, housing, healthcare, and other aspects of society. In marketing materials for schools, businesses, or political campaigns, one typically sees a diversity of people represented. This is to convey that the entity is respectful of all people and accepting of all people. Part of this involves a “build it and they will come” approach of portraying diversity even where it doesn’t exist, which attracts diversity. The intention is good, even if inaccurate.
- DEMOCRACY — We think of democracy as a self-governing society where leadership and governance is of the people, by the people, and for the people. This creates a type of freedom where people are collectively in control of decisions that impact everyone. In a democracy, one expects to see a diversity of people in government positions. Otherwise, the democracy does not appear to be truly representative.
- INSPIRATION — There are many factors for success in education, business, music, sports, government, or other areas of life. One of the hurdles can be a person’s level of belief they can do something. If you look for role models and see successful people who look like you, there will be a sense that the goal is possible.
- OUTCOMES — In business, education, or government, we often take on challenges that need creative solutions to be implemented. A diversity of minds and experiences can help to arrive at better solutions and outcomes.
- UNDERSTANDING — There is a parable about several blind people describing an elephant who all arrive at different descriptions based on what part of the elephant they are feeling. Only their combined collective description provides the group with a clearer understanding of the elephant. We need a diversity of people to help us see and understand the world.
You Can’t See Diversity
We think we can visually portray diversity. While visual depictions of diversity satisfy marketing requirements and social expectations, they are shallow and an incorrect representation of diversity.
Below is a stock photo that showed up on a search for diversity.
A true and meaningful pursuit of diversity is more than just skin deep. Here are some questions that need to be answered to understand the level of diversity for the group shown in the photo above:
- Are the individuals shown above economically diverse?
- Are they religiously diverse?
- Do they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds?
- Do they have different educational training?
- What are their professions?
- Are they generally different or are they similar?
- Do they come from rural, small town, or big city communities?
Genuine efforts to pursue diversity must look deeper than just superficial appearances in order to achieve the goals and benefits of diversity.
What if the following were common among the group shown above:
- All have graduate degrees
- All are earning 6-figure incomes in their area of study
- Have the same religion in common
- Each is living in a home worth over $1 million and drive an electric car of $70K or greater value
- All grew up in the same city in the same state
- All were adopted by the same parents who are surgeons for a large metropolitan hospital on the East Coast
- All buy their clothes at the same trendy online clothier
- All work part-time as models for diversity photo shoots
This list of commonalities is made up. We don’t know how similar or how different they are. A diversity goal satisfied by the photo is that of conveying perceived access. If it’s used in a job listing for a company, and you see one of the people as visually similar to yourself, you might consider working there.
If the photo is used in an article about career success, then the goal of inspiring people might be achieved.
Yet, the deeper core values of diversity aren’t addressed, met, or served simply in a stock photo.
People who look very similar in a photo, could in real life have a wide diversity of backgrounds. People who look very different could have much in common. Visual depictions of diversity serve some purpose, but they also perpetuate stereotypes.
While superficial portrayals of diversity don’t achieve the deeper goals and benefits of diversity, they do serve to reinforce the depiction of diversity that can help create the appearance of a welcoming environment and may inspire some people to higher aspirations.
It’s not always possible to find, hire, and train people from diverse backgrounds to represent every possible special interest identity group. That may happen naturally and organically over time, with a balance of weighted merit-based hiring practices.
The realities of an organization or business workforce don’t always align with the aspirations and long-term goals of an organization.
In the video below, queued at 3m 48s, there is some discussion about criticism of Levi using AI-generated people depicting diversity. Critics pointed out that there is not diversity among the programmers who wrote the AI programming that generated the diverse portrayal of people.
When companies use artists portrayals, stock photos, or AI-generated images to depict diversity, should they be criticized?
It’s not always possible to hire a diversity of artists, photographers, or AI-programmers to create images that depict diversity. Also, an individual or small team will never represent the full scope of diversity, yet their work will need to portray diversity beyond that represented by their own personal experience and life.
In promoting diversity, it’s important to acknowledge efforts and support what expands the visual message.
Superficial portrayals, despite the intentions or actual diversity behind them, will serve some diversity goals as described in the list at the start of this document.
Diversity in Writing
As an individual writer, one will want to write about diversity, and portray diversity in their writing. Yet this is just one person’s perspective. It could be criticized as lacking authenticity. Regardless of the criticism, including diversity representation even by non-diverse individuals, is important. One needs to persevere and put up with the attacks from the evangelists because ultimately it’s important to support diversity efforts.
Portrayals of diversity are often exaggerated because the deeper aspects of character are not visible, such as a person’s religious beliefs.
For this reason, portrayals of religious diversity will often show people in traditional clothing wearing religious iconography. Traditional religious buildings will be shown. Women wearing hijabs are popular in advertising because that’s a garment with religious significance.
Showing a woman in a full-length burka covering the entire body including the face would depict religious diversity but may convey what some feel is religious oppression of women. So, it’s unlikely you’ll see images of extreme religious observance in advertising. Only enough to convey, “We accept people of diverse faiths.”
In real life, we don’t know the religious beliefs of people just by looking at them. The superficial religious stereotypes diminish and misrepresent the deeper aspects of religion in a person’s life.
Diversity in Advertising
It’s well known that there is an emotional component to promoting a product or service. Consumers need to be motivated by perceptions of value and benefits, but also a sense of feeling a brand is right for their identity.
Advertising is formulated to appeal to certain people and groups, then delivered to though targeted campaigns. The ads are meant to be relatable and appealing.
If you see someone like yourself in an ad using a service or product, you will be more likely to consider what’s being sold.
We’re also drawn to attractive, happy, successful people. So, those who seem relatable, and better off than we are provide an admirable attraction generating more interest in a product.
The Apple diversity video below is produced to help attract employees and customers from a variety of backgrounds.
Accepting Incorrect Portrayals
We need to acknowledge that the superficial stereotypical portrayals of diversity actually serve a purpose in helping promote acceptance and providing what appear to be successful role models.
The deeper goals of diversity need to be pursued and embraced uniquely by organizations and businesses based on genuine organic growth.
Blind People and the Elephant
From the traditions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sufism, and other cultures, there’s a story told of blind people describing an elephant. [Learn More]
Only from their collective observations did they arrive at a more accurate overall understanding of the elephant’s appearance.
Similarly, we’re all in need of the perspectives others can offer for us to better understand the world and challenges we face.
Diversity is Everywhere
A variety of impactful videos have been produced to explore how much diversity and connectedness exists all around us. Below are some examples.
The video below, also shared t the top of this page, is a good reminder that diversity is all around us. [Source]
The video below was produced by a church to portray the differences and similarities in groups. [Source]
Deutsche Welle (23 Apr 2023)
“Catalonia’s female firefighter quota draws controversy” — Catalonia has introduced a quota to attract more women to jobs in the fire department. But it’s proved to be a very controversial decision. It’s a tough job and applicants must be highly qualified. [Source]
NBC News (21 Apr 2023)
“First-ever A.I. Fashion Week debuts in NYC” — Hundreds of collections were submitted to the first-ever A.I. Fashion Week in New York City from designers around the world. NBC’s Gadi Schwartz is joined by model Sinead Bovell to discuss the future of technology and fashion. [Source] Note: The video is queued at 3m 48s where there is discussion about diversity in advertising.
Asif Sadiq via TEDx (2 Mar 2023)
“Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Learning how to get it right” — Why the traditional ways of teaching Diversity. Equity and Inclusion does not work. Speaking at Royal Russell School Croydon Sadiq has a long and rich career in the diversity and inclusion space with senior executive roles at adidas, The Telegraph Media Group, EY Financial Services and the City of London Police. He has been identified as one of the most influential Global D&I Leaders by Hive Learning and occupies a place on the CIPD’s Top 20 Power List. [Source]