Diversity: Why Encouraging Differences Makes a Difference

dreamstime_s_17510056If you tend to avoid challenging conversations, awkward moments or uncomfortable situations, you’re not alone. Many people steer away from discussions about diversity because they want to circumvent the difficulty and discomfort these interactions often evoke.

A high percentage of students I’ve asked about this issue agree that diversity is  important, but very few could easily articulate why or even provide a strong definition for the word. Before we can address the apprehension or uneasiness felt toward diversity initiatives, we need to really understand what diversity is to communicate why it’s so crucial.

For starters, advocating for diversity does not simply entail ensuring that you have a rainbow assortment of skin tones present at any given moment. Race and ethnicity certainly weigh in as central aspects of understanding where people come from, but limiting them to only those two facets severely restricts our perception of their humanity and our respect for them.

PRSSA defines diversity with much broader terms: “We embrace members regardless of socio-economic background, race, culture, religion, education, age, disability, marital status, gender or sexual orientation. PRSSA recognizes the importance of different experiences, perspectives and voices in making a viable Society that aids the profession.”

In an organization, it can be tempting to look for the fastest route from point A to point B when you are faced with a challenging task or high-risk situation. In these moments of decision-making, the last opinion we may want to hear is one expressing a perspective completely contradictory to our own. Pausing to listen to a different point of view can appear costly and inconvenient. However, while this moment of tension may seem to sidetrack a mission, the friction can actually lead to better, more balanced results in the end.

We sometimes even label ideas that sound strange to us as wrong. Instead, we need to think of a new concept as an opportunity for conversation and unearth a creative compromise where everybody benefits. If people of diverse backgrounds and qualities do not ask questions we may overlook, we would lose out on the chance to discover our blind spots and grow from the experience.

Diversity cures the malignant poison of prejudice. Diversity opens our eyes to see a fuller vision of reality. Diversity deepens our relationships and paves the way of developing trust. Diversity unites us as individuals without sacrificing our unique beauty and brilliance. Diversity makes a difference, a difference we cannot undervalue.

PRSSA offers resources such as the Diversity Toolkit to help Chapters find ways to encourage diversity. Check back throughout the next few weeks as Progressions continues to explore the different themes of diversity with posts on some of the hottest topics of potential conflict.

What does encouraging diversity look like in your Chapter? Why is diversity important to you? Tell us in the comments below!

This post was written by PRSSA 2013-2014 Vice President of Advocacy Jessica Airey. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicaairey or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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