How to be a Better Settler #7: What do you mean by “diversity”?

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We’re throwing the word “diversity” around a lot these days. Everyone is doing it.

But what does “diversity” really mean, especially to you and your organization?

It’s a philosophical question more than it is a practical question of organizational logistics. Really, it is. Because if you cannot define what diversity means for your organization, for your employees, your board of directors, your volunteers, your partners, your customers or your clients, you really can’t know if you’re doing it, or measure it, or know if you’re making any kind of difference (which you want to do, right?).

I’ll tell you what diversity means to me, or rather, what it doesn’t mean.

It doesn’t mean that a quota is created and met without thought to what changes may need to be made to your organizational structure to support the change. It doesn’t mean that a few people from a background different from your mainstream are hired and then the onus is put on them to carry the burden of cultural awareness, education, or feedback. It doesn’t mean burning out staff by not hiring enough people to do the work of creating an Indigenous relations department, or project, or program.

It means you build diversity as part of your strategic plan. It means you audit your organization to see where it’s doing really great work–and where it can do better. It means you start talking to, or reignite conversations with, Indigenous partners with interests similar to yours, and see where your common ground can lead to a long-term sustainable profitable partnership.

My definition of diversity? We are all segments of the same sphere, and no single group is the axis around which all other groups must organize themselves, although it certainly feels like that sometimes for a whole bunch of people. You don’t  necessarily need a wholesale redesign of your organizational culture to move forward. Sometimes all it takes is a small shift, a minor pivot in your mindset and your working practices. This is how you build and sustain diversity in your organization. Change, even small ones, can create long-term positive ripples out into your organization and beyond. That is when diversity is really working.

Interested in making small shifts to bring big change? Here’s what I can do for you.