Embracing Growth Through Diversity

Pam Sornson, JD

For too long, too many people ignored the world’s various forms of inequity because they didn’t believe those notions, behaviors, and policies adversely affected their lives. Unfortunately, their belief is in error, as research on the subject reveals how any form of inequality adversely affects the entire community in which it exists (including the global community). As this reality becomes more apparent, local communities are making changes to resolve their inequity challenges and mitigate the damages they cause.

 

Historical Inequity is Everywhere

The social and economic gaps between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ have never been wider, as more people express pessimism about resolving the fundamental inequities that exist in their communities. Race, religion, caste systems, ability challenges, and ethnicities are all used as tools to limit access to social and economic resources by those people who are deemed ‘less than.’ In some cases, skin color is the only differentiator; in others, where differences in skin color aren’t as obvious, religious beliefs, cultural practices, and historic rivalries continue to dictate who gets what portion of a society’s collective resources.

Usually, it is a limited class of governors that determines who reaps the highest proportion of a community’s bounty in most instances. Too often, that determination rewards those who are most like those governors than those who actually generated the resources. By always favoring their same-class cohorts, not only do their neighbors and friends fare better than they would without the boost, but the determining class also retains its power to maintain that status quo. The consequence is a society run by a single, narrow category of people that excludes those with differences from both decision-making opportunities and the resources those opportunities provide. The outcome is a community populated by diverse interests and abilities ruled from a single, narrow, and limiting perspective. And that perspective negatively affects every person within that community.

 

 

Embrace Diversity = Embrace Vision and Resource

Perhaps the saddest consequence of a lack of diversity in community determination and participation is the loss of the immense resource within diverse populations. When many or most facets of a community are excluded in favor of one or two small groups, everyone, including those in the one or twoloses out on the benefits and values that are ignored.

Why does this matter? It matters because cultures that embrace and include their full complement of diverse elements do better socially and economically than those that don’t.

 

 

Social Benefits of Inclusive Diversity

Research is revealing how positive social connections between culturally divergent people enhance the lives and work of them all.

A 2018 Danish study looked at how social interactions among internationally based team members improved not just the individual’s personal sense of well-being but also their collective sense of community well-being too. The study analyzed the interactions among 30+ teams in a company with 7,200 workers representing 118 nationalities. Through observations and discussions, researchers noted that highly diverse groups (those with multiple nationalities represented) interacted more often, enjoyed a higher sense of social cohesion, and improved their sense of well-being at work. These social gains were recorded separately from the economic impact generated by the enhanced teamwork capacities.

Ultimately, the scientists concluded that enhanced connections between diverse team members created a ‘virtuous circle’ of mutual assistance and team coherence across the enterprise.

Other researchers found evidence that increased exposure to people of different backgrounds and cultures also enhances one’s personal sense of well-being. Interaction with people outside one’s unique cultural bubble tends to both open one’s understanding and perspective about the larger world and reduce the innate prejudice and fear that ignorance and unfamiliarity can cause.

Being open to new ideas and possibilities offered by a diverse community also opens doors to innovation, as cultural standards are shared and adopted.

The studies suggest that people who live in diverse communities and share ideas, experiences, and opportunities are more socially connected and happier than those who do not.

 

Economic Benefits of Inclusive Diversity

Research also strongly supports the position that businesses do better when they actively engage in including diverse populations within their workforces.

The broader workforce base also creates a more qualified workforce since candidates aren’t limited by irrelevant cultural factors (race, religion, etc.)

As noted above, that diverse workforce also works better than a non-diverse staff because they encourage each other’s creativity and imagination.

Not insignificantly, the diverse workforce also attracts – and the business is better informed by – a broader, more diverse consumer base. Diverse perspectives and needs generate equally diverse commercial responses and opportunities. Studies show that companies can increase their market share simply by diversifying their workforce.

Both economically and socially, the science indicates that engaging every diverse element within a community raises the overall community sense of well-being and prosperity.

 

 

Overarching Benefits of Inclusion of Diverse Cultures

Additionally, other community factors improve when an entire community, including its diverse populations, contributes to the overall well-being of its whole. According to Deloitte, inclusivity also:

reduces the societal costs of social services;

improves overall mental and physical health in all members;

improves the employment outcomes of individual workers, and

increases corporate productivity.

In sum, it no longer makes any sense to exclude any community members from social or economic opportunities based on irrelevant cultural factors. Instead, research indicates that including every person and all that they represent into all facets of community life only enhances the community’s overall social and economic well-being as a whole.

 

Community Colleges Enhance their Focus on Diversity and Inclusivity

Fortunately, America’s community colleges are already deeply engaged in righting the past’s wrongs and building pathways to a brighter future for everyone. For many years, they have invested their assets in attracting and educating the broadest possible population of students. The endeavor is immense because their typical student population is also often the most diverse, encompassing learners facing a wide variety of challenges and barriers.

Almost half (42%) are the first in their families to attend a college of any kind.

Some have language barriers.

Others must manage work and family obligations on top of their school work (13% are single parents).

More than 10% have disabilities that interfere with their learning capacity, mobility, or opportunity to engage.

Many, if not most, have economic concerns that interfere with their ability to pay for their education.

Despite these challenges, the nation’s community colleges continue to build their internal resources to support these students’ efforts to succeed. The professionals at PCC’s Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) work to ensure that all students experience an inclusive and welcoming culture as they enter and move through their college experience. With help from counselors and faculty from across the campus, the CCC helps every learner overcome their personal hurdles as they pursue the education path that best suits their needs.

PCC also focuses on helping its students find the work they want after graduation. The efforts of its Robert G. Freeman Career Center (RGF) are designed to ensure that they have the skillsets needed to fill available positions in the industries of their choice. Its Work-based Learning initiative provides internship opportunities to hone classroom learning and prepare learners for the actual work of their career. And all the effort provided by the The Freeman Center is tailored to match the needs of each individual student, regardless of race, religion, or other culturally distinct traits.

 

Pasadena City College is proud of its efforts to ensure all of its students achieve and succeed in the jobs and careers that they choose, and is looking forward to continuing this track for years to come.

 

 

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