Why diversity matters (to me)

I had an interesting conversation with our Managing Director of the European Studios at a recent get together where our Malmö team got to meet our leadership team in real life, after a long time of only seeing people’s headers and shoulders (#notsponsored).

Our fairly brief conversation covered a range of topics but one thing I distinctly remember her mentioning was how important diversity is to her. This got me thinking.

Diversity matters to me too – and I’d like to share why this is.

I don’t want to go into why I think it’s a good idea, in theory, that companies have diverse teams or have diversity in their leadership, instead I want to share a bit of my personal experience.

It’s nice to see someone like you in a place you want to go

When I say “like you”, it depends on how you view yourself. This could be based on gender, age, sexuality, parental status, race, culture etc. But seeing someone, who you can relate to, in a position you aspire to be in one day or at a company you’d like to work at one day – to me, communicates a clear message that if this person was accepted, then maybe you will be too.

As a half Asian, half European woman working in IT, who is a mother of a toddler and heavily pregnant – I don’t often think about these aspects of myself. In the day to day, I often just think about my current tasks, and what I need to do to prepare for upcoming tasks etc.

But when I take a step back, I notice diversity (or a lack of it).

There was an interesting post I saw on Linkedin recently (which annoyingly enough, I can’t find now) which said something along the lines of how people are overlooked for promotions or job opportunities because they didn’t fit someone’s pre-conceived idea of “suitable.” People have their built-in biases around what a “good” leader or a “good” employee is like. For example: If you only see male leaders, or male white leaders, or male white leaders without children – then you communicating that to be a leader at this organisation, you need these characteristics to get promoted.

Diverse experiences

One of the arguments I’ve heard for diverse teams and diverse leadership is that you have diverse experiences – which leads to diverse perspectives in decision making.

I’ve talked to my husband a lot about this and how our differences has affected how we see the world. It’s particularly interesting when we talk about our different experiences that arose because of things we can’t change (e.g.. our race and our gender)

For example, here are some of my experiences that my husband (a white young male Swede), would probably never experience:

  • Racist s*** said to me about how you speak Swedish in Sweden (yes I speak Swedish, but no I don’t always speak Swedish – my bad!)
  • Being ignored by female wait staff, who only focus on my husband, even when I am paying (honestly, it’s weird!)
  • Getting catcalled and hissed at (this wasn’t in Sweden but in Nicaragua – haven’t been hissed at in any other country)
  • Mansplaining

This is just a start and I could go on and on about experiences I have had that would be completely unfamiliar to not only my husband, but also to most of my male colleagues. Now I’m not saying different individuals don’t have their own individual experiences – BUT there are certain perspectives you CANNOT get unless you have that diversity in your team.

My best work experiences have been in diverse teams

There’s been research that show diverse teams perform better. Put simply, I’ve had my best work experiences in diverse teams. To be honest, I don’t fully know if it’s because they were diverse or that they just happened to be diverse.

But I can’t overlook the fact that the fact these teams were diverse is something they have in common.

Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

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