JW Way Fundamental #13: Embrace Diversity. “Celebrate our differences. Be aware of and address implicit bias. Be open to learning from others, regardless of their background or role. Be mindful that we make better decisions when we consider multiple perspectives. Hire, mentor, compensate, and promote based on merit.”
Workplace diversity is typically characterized as diversity in human traits and characteristics: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and others. In an increasingly connected and globalized economy, workplace diversity has become more than just an HR checklist item – it has become a vital part of workplace culture and a company’s bottom line. Sure, a workplace that is diverse will look diverse and will sound diverse. But, importantly, diversity in the workplace fosters diversity in life experience, which in turn results in diversity in perspective, and diversity in perspective is invaluable for several reasons.
First, it is well known that diversity in perspective leads to increased creativity. People with different life experiences create a melting pot of new ideas and expand our collective working knowledge of the world. Creating a diverse team isn’t about gathering a bunch of different people and then expecting them all to do everything exactly the same. But rather to value the fact that everyone’s differences make the team stronger as a whole. For example, we have all encountered a client issue, project, or legal theory that seemed insurmountable – that kind of problem that leaves you feeling stuck. The best thing to do in that situation is to talk it out with a colleague. Often times getting a different perspective can lead to the “I’ve never thought about it that way” moment, and can shift your own perspective just enough to lead to a breakthrough.
Second, a diverse workforce expands client outreach and deepens existing client relationships. Hiring people from different backgrounds and communities expands our internal network and creates loyal clients as they feel understood and have lawyers with whom they can relate.
Third, diversity spurs personal growth. If we only interact with people who look like us, think like us, have similar life experiences, and have the same views and interests as us, we are less likely to grow as individuals. From my experience, most racial/cultural/religious/gender/other intolerance stems from lack of experience and/or superficial experience with a particular group of people. Spending meaningful time with and around people who you perceive to be different than you will typically bring you to the following realization: that we are all much more alike than we are different.
All that being said, embracing and practicing diversity, and implementing diversity’s sibling “inclusion,” is not a simple thing to do, nor can it be summarized in a short message. I can’t send you a link to a “Diversity and Inclusion for Dummies” handbook that explains how to reach optimum diversity and inclusion levels, if those levels even exist. But, here is a good place to start:
- Be open to other perspectives and create an environment around you where diversity in perspective is encouraged.
- Notice and talk about your own cultural and personal perspectives, and be curious and courageous enough to ask others about theirs. And when they talk, listen with empathy, curiosity, and no judgment.