Why is it important to understand cultural diversity?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, nowadays, it is pretty difficult not to be involved with this topic in everyday life interactions. There are Diversity and Inclusion Articles, Events, University courses, and even the advertisements are beginning to be more inclusive.
But what is cultural diversity, and why is it important? Why should we care about diversity and inclusion? What are diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Why is it important to understand cultural diversity?
Let’s start from the beginning.
What is cultural diversity?
Cultural diversity is not just celebrating and embracing different races, ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual orientations but goes deeper with individuals with varied political viewpoints, values, education and neuro-diversity.
Cultural diversity includes:
- Sexual orientation
- Cultural background
- Social class
- Physical look
Why should we care about diversity and inclusion?
Haven’t ever happened to you to be in a room or a car and feeling fine.
Going out from that room, or that car, breading some fresh air and smelling a foul smell when going in the same room you were in before?
That’s pretty normal, and I bet that happened to everyone at least once.
Having “diverse” people in a company or everyday life interactions helps us bring a breath of fresh air to our small comfort zone, and it helps us notice things we didn’t see before.
If we hang out with people with a background similar to ours and points of view equivalent to ours, we would never have the opportunity to challenge our thoughts, to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who does not have the same privileges as us.
What are diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Suppose companies keep hiring people with a similar background, born and raised in the same country, people that studied at the same university, people with the same age range, or people with similar life experiences. In that case, we might have a biased team. And this applies to all sorts of industries and companies.
Having a different point of view on one product or service can help to make it inclusive and more performative.
The world is made up of different kinds of people who each bring unique skills, experiences, and new perspectives to the workplace and society.
Cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace inspire creativity and fosters innovation, which can help businesses and society to solve problems and meet customer and client needs. A multicultural workforce will give an organization a competitive edge and advantage when expanding into new markets. Having colleagues who understand local laws, regulations, customs, and the competitive landscape can help a business thrive in a new market. Additionally, having colleagues who have local connections, speak native languages and have in-depth cultural understanding can rapidly boost international business development¹.
Studies have shown that inclusiveness and diversity in thinking, experience, expertise and working styles can boost an organization’s capacity to problem solve, ultimately leading to greater productivity and an increase in workplace happiness².
Why is it important to understand cultural diversity?
Disclaimer: Everyone is different; you will see generalizations in this case. If you don’t see yourself in these generations, that’s fine. We are not assuming that people with a similar background are the same but that they can hypothetically assume similar attitudes.
Assuming that every person is different, for people born and raised in a big city with millions of inhabitants, it’s easier not to know your neighbour or your neighbourhood supermarket cashier.
Generally speaking, this does not apply to those coming from small villages, where all the neighbours and shop owners are known.
This is just a small example that can help us understand how our backgrounds influence our behaviours. Children of families living in small towns, where everyone knows everyone, have a different autonomy (for example, the freedom to ride a bicycle) than children born in New York City.
Therefore, understanding cultural differences and living actively in a more diverse and inclusive environment opens our minds and makes us understand points of view different from ours.
We can indeed be born and grow up in the same city without ever exploring other countries, cultures and horizons. And there would be nothing wrong with that! But this inevitably limits us. It does not allow us to understand traditions different from ours and points of view different from ours.
On the other hand, if we open our minds to points of view different from ours, cultures and traditions different from ours, we understand why we have different attitudes. We will feel more empathic instead of critical.
What can I do to live a diverse and inclusive life?
Welcome the diversity around you!
Try to have friends of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds than yours. If you know someone with a different culture than yours, try to show empathy (for example, avoid eating in front of someone doing Ramadan).
Challenge your thoughts, and if someone thinks different from you, try to listen to their point of view and understand why, rather than impose your point of view.
The last tip is that we all make mistakes every day, and when interacting with people with a culture different from ours, it is effortless to offend someone or feel offended without wanting to. The difference is how we react to someone else’s mistakes and make amends for our own mistakes.
If we learn to listen to others and are willing to learn from our mistakes, we will always have a good chance of professional and personal growth.
This blog contribution was made by Eleonora Papini.
Eleonora is passionate about human psychology, sustainable development and international cooperation. Eleonora works as a Project Manager in a European project about urban sustainable development solutions aimed at valuing the young and female entrepreneurship industry.
In 2021 became also the Mentoring Programme Manager for the LMF Network and content creator for their blog.
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