November 2nd, 2016

What is Diversity?

Diversity. dʌɪˈvəːsɪti,dɪ-/ noun                               
The state of being diverse.

It has been the buzzword for quite some time now. Everyone says it’s good to have diversity in the workplace. Companies are making it a priority and are even taking the time to put employees through diversity training. Governments are insisting companies have a certain level of diversity and organizations and individuals alike are boycotting companies that don’t. But what really is diversity?


The dictionary simply puts the definition of diversity as “The state of being diverse” and “A range of different things”. However, diving further into the definition, we find that diversity truly means “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc. That’s simple, right? One Yoruba man, one Igbo girl and a rich Hausa man. There are very few companies that have all-male staff or all female staff. Unless there is a religious/traditional reason, it is unlikely that a company will have all male/all female staff.


If a company, say Madu & Sons Limited, is located in the East, everyone that works there might be Igbo. It might be difficult for Madu & Sons to find an Edo person to hire because they’re simply in the heart of Igbo land and that is completely fine. However, there is still a need for diversity amongst the Igbo people in that company. This means Madu & Sons will need a good balance of males and females, people from different social economic classes, backgrounds and also disciplines. I’m yet to find an Igbo person who is Muslim but If they exist, Madu & Sons might want to consider throwing them in the mix too.


In fact, it takes a lot of effort to exclude all forms of variety. Trying to ensure that only married Yoruba Christian males between the ages of 25 – 34 work for you is a daunting task. You will most likely find someone completely qualified for the job who doesn’t fall within the specified parameters and might decide to bend the rules for them. Unemployment is so rampant these days that a female might see the recruitment ad and apply, hoping an exception would be made for her.


While having a diverse employer base is hard to avoid, most organizations tend to favour a certain type of person over the other. For instance, a church might have only male ministers, a range of stores might have only young female cashiers and male warehouse workers. Having one Muslim worker amidst twenty Christian ones is not diversity. The definition of the word starts with “inclusion”. It might be hard to feel included when you’re the only one. Frankly, it is common that the odd one gets left out of a lot of things or is treated differently. There is really no diversity without inclusion.


Diversity means not only having a variety of people but also making them feel like a part of the team.