The Importance of Accepting Diversity Within the Workplace

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Posted At: November 30, 2012 3:10 P.M.
by Leighton Brown

What was once only imaginable — a truly diverse United States population with equal employment opportunity — is now a reality. An ever-increasing number of people come to our nation from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, and we are all essentially competing for the same thing: the American dream.

Because of our nation’s current economic standing, more women (along with many other underrepresented groups) have felt inclined to enter the workforce. A recent blog post, written by Sophia Kerby and Crosby Burns for the Center for American Progress, outlines the Top 10 Economic Facts of Diversity in the Workplace. This article highlights the benefits of accepting diversity and how it can help your business grow and make it more competitive in the market today.

Accepting diversity in the workplace is extremely important and can help generate new ideas, grow your external client base and ultimately give you a new perspective on the world.

“Diversity can be beneficial in the workplace for several reasons,” said Nicolas A. Brown, C.M., senior consultant at Landrum & Brown. “Most important, diversity brings people of different backgrounds together to approach the same problems or questions from their differing world-views and experiences. Through this [interaction], new and innovative processes and techniques can be derived for the same old problems or questions putting one’s organization at the leading edge of their field.”

It is important to recognize diversity internally in order to be ultimately successful. Recently, I was at aPRSSA seminar in Scotsdale, Ariz., listening to Brandi Boatner, digital experience manager IBM Global Technology Services. Boatner explained, “Diverse companies will make more money because they represent a wider range of publics.” Minorities are quickly becoming the majorities in our society, and it’s important for companies to recognize this change and use it to their advantage.

Growing up in Florida, I sometimes felt like I was born in a different country. In certain parts of Florida, Spanish seems to be the primary language. I have thus grown up learning to accept diversity. Whether it was in school or on my athletic teams, I had to learn how to creatively generate new ideas and solutions with people who were different from me.

My experiences with welcoming diversity was taken to new heights when I decided to study abroad. Upon my decision to move to Florence, Italy, I attended a small private school in the heart of the city. While this was perhaps one of the most amazing experiences in my life, it was also the most challenging. The local Florentines tend to be much more aggressive in expressing their thoughts and opinions. You are not going to leave a meeting without knowing exactly what they want you to know. They bring a whole new creative element to the business world compared to the Southern people whom I’ve spent my college life around. Needless to say, I had to adapt if I was going to survive the next six months of my international academic life.

Amazingly, I came to realize that interacting with my Italian classmates and professors was probably one of the best things to ever happen to me. Yes, we were literally from two different worlds, but I was able to learn how they think, and they were able to learn the same from me. I learned to be more aggressive with my thinking and to be bold. They showed me an entirely new way of creative and strategic thinking. Now, I feel like I’m a more confident person because of my Florentine friends.

Brown confirmed my personal experiences by explaining that “parts of someone else’s approach to a problem combined together with parts of your approach has the potential to innovate or improve the way things are done! In addition, diversity always has the potential to spur competition and innovation.”

There is a huge world out there, and we’d be foolish to not take advantage of it. Every culture and every background brings new elements to the table. As students and professionals, we should explore the advantages of the diversity around us. By doing so, we will become more well-rounded, and our companies will, in turn, be more well-rounded, relatable and successful.

3 Comments

  1. Louanne Elliott

    Leighton,
    I could not agree more. Diversity is so important within the workplace. There are so many things to be learned from other cultures. It’s sometimes difficult to remember as we get caught up in our mundane tasks. While a diverse workplace has tangible benefits as you stated, I believe it also plays a role in giving us perspective about the world and how vast it actually is.
    Something that does frighten me is the idea of losing cultures and westernizing their values due to globalization. I hope that as people from different cultures are hired to work for American corporations that they will hold on to their traditions and be willing to share them with us. I hope that America is willing to learn about new cultures and not get caught up in making others American.

    Reply

  2. Taylor Hodgkinson

    Leighton,

    I found your article it be very informative and encouraging to my professional endeavors. Having a diverse work culture fosters creativity, which I agree is vital to businesses wanting to be successful and offering their services to a greater scope of external publics. I look forward to entering a diverse work environment where I can continue to gain knowledge on abroad cultures.

    Reply

  3. Je Oh

    I love how the post points out that U.S. is accepting more diversity in workplaces and businesses are focusing on the importance of accepting it. Diversity brings positive effects to a workplace, but I believe people need to be careful about accepting and applying diverse ideas. Less diversity and more consideration are needed in some industries such as service industry targeting American market. For example, a restaurant that is using an Asian theme might hire Asians to brainstorm and get pros of Asian restaurants compared to American restaurants. They might come up with the fact that tipping is not expected in many Asian cultures. Accepting this difference might bring more customers and more profit for the business. However, it would be unfair to the servers, and the quality of the service will be lowered. The management style needs to be American in order to run the business in the U.S. Accepting diverse ideas and opinions is important to a workplace to bring innovation and competition, but managing it efficiently will create more effective differences for the workforce. As PR practitioners, it is important to know what differences we need to accept from different cultures and how to apply different needs for different industries.

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