Posted by eireland 2 years, 8 months ago

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90 percent of who we are we cannot see, but we make most of our choices based on the other 10 percent. 

That is one of many thoughts Dr. Steven Jones, a national expert on diversity for Jones & Associates Consulting, dropped on us at a recent Junior League of San Diego general meeting. We're in the midst of a diversity overhaul and Dr. Jones is one of our advisors. 

He mentioned how most groups say they want to be diverse, but discerning whether it's a window dressing effort or genuine inclusion will separate the good from the great. 

He also made sure we understood that diversity is about culture, not just demographics, but also the things you can't see from a face. Dr. Jones referenced the importance of creating a culture where people feel respected and valued. That behavior has to be learned by engaging across and embracing our differences to get to the land of deference. 

Dr. Jones called attention to something I consider a sad reality. That is our unconscious bias. It's actually biological because our brains crave the familiar. That's why being open to others and brand new experiences challenges us. It may make us feel uncomfortable or stretched. Often, the unsaid message is to conform.  

He led us in an exercise of crossing our arms. We always cross our arms the same way. If you're reading this, try reversing and see how long you can hold the pose. Most people in the room were visibly uncomfortable.

The point he was addressing is in order to be diverse groups need to develop a comfort with discomfort. It's not suppossed to be easy because that's not how we're wired. 

Dr. Jones mentioned how we talk in code around many of these issues. He referenced an example of a mixed race family touring a school and asking the tour guide to explain how the school addresses diversity. What they got in return was a red-faced, babbling person, talking around the issue. That is not good. 

His recommendation to organizations is to determine what you need in diversity and where you want to grow. A good idea is to zero in on a few initiatives and be ready to talk about those specifically such as: 

"While we understand there is a broad range of topics in diversity, we're focusing in on these three areas: race, socioeconomic status, and the veteran population." 

He left us by thinking of diversity as action and asked how we leverage diversity of thought:

  • Diversity of thought is informed by diversity of background 
  • Diversity of background is based on diversity of people

It's all of our responsibilities to seek diversity no matter where we choose to belong. 

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