More and more we hear about the push for inclusivity and diversity in every environment. In workplaces, it is becoming standard for employers to hire people of different ethnicities, identities and backgrounds. In the academic world, you hear allegations of universities accepting the admission of students partially based on their ethnicity or race over another student who may seem “more qualified” academically or through their extra curriculars. For many, this raises a large point of concern. If you’ve “worked harder” or “accomplished more,” why shouldn’t they hire you over someone else?
Here’s the deal:
Diversity within a school or workplace is what actually allows for more inspiration and broader innovation. The benefits that a differing worldview within an environment provides can outweigh the “more experience” that someone else has. Differing worldviews, backgrounds and belief systems also bring more perspectives, life experiences and ideas to the table. Diversity is vital to a well-rounded worldview and the ability to effectively communicate with as many people as possible.
It is shown that exposure to students from a range of backgrounds is actually one of the best predictors of whether first-year college students return for a second year, according to Julia T. Wood, author of Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. She also notes that classrooms with students of differing races and ethnicities have increased cognitive and personal development as well as enhanced critical thinking skills.
Diversity is important in the workplace too. In a 2016 study titled “Women on boards, sustainability reporting and firm performance,” it is shown the more diverse a work group, the more cognitive processing and exchange of information takes place. People can learn from each other by bringing in different ideas and perspectives that lead to better problem-solving. These teams have more open dialogue and encourage more creativity.
Additionally, being around people with different worldviews forces us to question our values and beliefs in a way that is beneficial to us. By questioning ourselves, we are forced to deepen the roots of our understanding or to completely change our mind about something that doesn’t seem logically or emotionally consistent.
This exposure to differing perspectives can save us from complacency or lack of growth in our own lives. Without diversity, we are more apt to the dangers of “groupthink.”
Elizabeth A. Segal, a social work professor at Arizona State University, defines “groupthink” as “a strong desire to conform and not be different can lead to not speaking up or raising alternative ideas [that can lead] to a uniform way of thinking within a group.”
An Instagram poll conducted on my personal account showed that 130 out of 191 Southern students attended an Adventist academy before attending Southern. While being in an environment of peers who have similar experiences and worldviews may be comforting, it might not provide a range of differing experiences that would allow for the benefits of diversity that we desire. Therefore, it is our responsibility to put ourselves in the way of diversity in order to challenge ourselves intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
If we limit ourselves to a community of people who all came from similar, if not nearly identical backgrounds, we are also limiting ourselves to an immense well of knowledge, inspiration, understanding and opportunity.
- Arayssi, M., Dah, M. & Jizi, M. (2016) Women on boards, sustainability reporting and firm performance. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 7 (3), pp. 376-401.
- A First Look at Interpersonal Communication pg 17.