What you mean when you say 'diverse'

The other day I was invited to attend a meeting with a couple of important (internal and external) people at my company. And even though overall the company that I work for has a very balanced gender ratio, at this meeting I saw mostly white men.

Interestingly, today I read what the boss of the division wrote about this meeting. They said something like: 'we had a very diverse group of people at this meeting'. I assume they were talking about different scientific and commercial backgrounds that were covered by this group of people. Or perhaps a group of mainly men and one woman is considered 'diverse'?

Also, it makes me wonder how we talk about quota of women at the highest level of companies, but never about all those levels in between*. And if at those levels we are not talking about gender diversity, how do we ever fill the pool of women who will be able to fill top positions?

*Or am I wrong? I would love to hear about places where gender equality is addressed at different levels, so not just overall and at top positions.

4 responses so far

  • biochembelle says:

    "...it makes me wonder how we talk about quota of women at the highest level of companies, but never about all those levels in between."

    I think a number of people/places do talk about number of women at lower levels, but often to make a point of how well they're doing. And pretend that those numbers will convert to women in higher levels in a number of years (even though that's generally not what happens).

    But the scenario really highlights some of the trouble with using words like "diverse." It has meaning outside the context of the equal opportunity/diversity & inclusion frameworks. We're having conversations about different things, but using the same words.

    Even within equity framework, we're still often having different conversations lumped under the same terms (e.g., gender parity as "diversity" without talking about race/ethnicity or disability or the intersections of identities). For instance, I was reading an article about an institution trying to improve "diversity" in their computer science program, but it soon became clear the focus was getting more women into the program. (And even gender diversity discussions are typically limited to heteronormative binary, cis-men/women.)

    It's not to say that we shouldn't be having these conversations. But the terms can obscure our focus and intent and create tension. Maybe we should be more explicit about what we mean when we say "diverse" - if for no other reason than to understand our own lens.

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes, you're completely right. This whole thing mostly made me realize that we all see the world through our own view and it's hard to realize that you're even doing that. Let alone understand someone else's view.

  • Zuska says:

    With regard to gender diversity, here's how it works:
    Say you have a group of 100.
    If only 1 is a woman: no cause for concern. Everyone knows women aren't interested in Stuff.
    10 women: We here at Institute for Stuff Study are proud of our diversity!
    20 women: ISS is a diversity leader among Stuff studiers! Also, two of our women are from India, one is African American, and we are actively recruiting senior female Stuff staff.
    30 women: Women are taking over Stuff. All this politically correct talk about gender equity is fine, but we need to maintain the high standards that made us stellar Stuff studiers in the first place.
    40 women: Stuff studies aren't what they used to be.
    50 women: Nobody studies stuff anymore. Besides, it doesn't pay well these days.
    60 women: Everyone knows women are naturally good at Stuff, because of their inherent woman brains and emotions.
    70-99 women: hahahaha look at the mama's boys doing Stuff with all the girls! Pussies!

  • namnezia says:

    Diverse facial hair styles? Shirt colors?

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