"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.
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
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
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
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.