"Diversity Questions & Answers" is a column that I have written for Managing Diversity, a monthly publication, since it started in 1991.

The first four years of the column are reprinted in my handbook,
How Diversity Works.

Managing Diversity
Leo Patterson, Editor
P.O. Box 819
Jamestown NY 14702




Q: How can our work honor Sept. 11?

A: Groups should be studying and practicing peace. Diversity work is a form of peace work, and we might get further if we said so. Promoting conditions favorable to diversity is a way of creating the kind of social system we would like to live in -- democratic, sustainable, peaceable. Isn't that what we are really saying when we say let's celebrate and value diversity, inclusion, and pluralism?
It means there's a quality of human community and social relations that we want to bring into being, help thrive, and maybe we don't have it yet, so we are moving toward it and identifying the ways we can assist its existence and the ways we hamper it from flourishing. We haven't been clear enough about this dimension of our work. A Diversity Task Force does more than market research or public relations. It is more than productivity enhancement. It is quality of life enhancement. It is living-in-the-world enhancement.
There is a commons, a shared planet. It is environmental, genetic, emotional, economic, philosophical. We are each other's business. When a nuclear reactor is leaking radiation, it is our concern. When atrocities are committed somewhere, it is our concern. Prevention is best; intervention may be called for. This sounds like John Donne's meditation, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."
What must it be like for someone from another country to see our official statements of nondiscrimination? When an organization in America states that it does not discriminate on the basis of national origin, appearance, religion, race, sex, ethnicity, age, marital status, national or political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation, or disability, it must be startling to people who have been persecuted for just those reasons.
Being in America means accepting and assuming that such statements will be honored, that it is safe to be who you are. We often don't realize or appreciate the profound nature of such statements. They are the underpinnings for diversity, a way of establishing the framework and environment in which those statements become real.

Q: Is there a way to measure how we're doing?

A: Yes, there are numerous ways. One of the most powerful is to have people discuss how close their experience comes to their ideals. Remember that diversity is multi-dimensional so no one form of measuring is going to be sufficient. I can't resist quoting H.L. Mencken, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
You should be familiar with the international SA8000 standard. You should be discussing diversity multiplier effects. Look at the USA TODAY Diversity Index. Look at the work on Factor 10 for sustainable development. Develop a welcoming/hostile environment matrix. Calculate net diversity utilization. You can determine people's level of comfort with and without various kinds of diversities. I created HazSits, sociocultural hazard indicators, which has been used in some FEMA programs. Figure out your opportunity costs from not having various kinds of diversities available to you.
Michigan Psychologists for Social Responsibility put out a workbook called "Us and Them" which I've used for several years. One of the exercises is a Diversity Quotient self-test. It's on the Web at www.rmc.edu/psysr/UsAndThem/quiz.html
You can use a scale of homogeneity/heterogeneity. You can use some of the tests for tolerance, bias, and prejudice or for conflict/solidarity. There's a clever self-test at www.tolerance.org/hidden_bias/test.html
There are experiential games and exercises for groups and teams, thick books of them. A counseling psychologist can show you some standard test "instruments." People who work with couples, group process, organizational dynamics or social relations will have their favorite tools and techniques. It is useful and fun to try some of them with your staff, your diversity council, your management team, your customers or members. People like hearing about themselves and it's helpful to have some baseline to chart change. And then you need to work with whatever information these measurements give you.

Bonus Columns: Recommended
November 1995 January 1996

You can email me with any questions or comments.