May 21 is the United Nations' World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, an annual opportunity to acknowledge the impact of culture on all aspects of our lives, from government and media to economics and the arts.
For the last 16 years, the UN has celebrated this holiday as a means of uplifting the critical impact of the arts, language, creativity, and culture on our global and local economies. There are nearly 30 million jobs in the culture and arts sector across the world, and the sector contributes $2.25 billion to the global economy. This shows that we live in a world that is not only diverse and colorful, but also generative and profitable.
Across the globe, more than 6,500 languages are spoken, and roughly 4,300 religions are practiced. Experts estimate that in the United States, ethnic diversity increased rapidly between 2010 and 2020, with Asian, Black, and Hispanic/Latino populations becoming more prevalent from coast to coast.
It's common knowledge that a diversity of cultures in any given area can have a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of all. For example, did you know that the more diverse our classrooms are, the more likely a child is to achieve higher grades, become more self-confident, and develop an appreciation for other cultures? For adults, studies have shown that living and working in diverse settings can make us smarter, more productive, and more creative. The data illustrates that a diversity of culture, thinking, education, race, ethnicity, experience, religion, and even language can benefit each and every one of us.
Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S.
While the data supports the fact that cultural diversity can yield massive benefits, the reality is that collectively in the United States, we still struggle with opening our heads and hearts to others who are different. We've made great strides over the last several decades, but diversity and inclusion continues to be a growth area for so many, particularly in the workplace.
But what exactly are the concepts of diversity and inclusion? Simply stated, diversity is the desire and ability to bring together a rich and varied set of identities that may differ in race, ethnicity, primary language, religious affiliation, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, age, educational attainment, and a long list of other characteristics. Diversity mandates that we bring these different experiences and identities together into one space and enable them to interact and uplift one another. Inclusion is ensuring that every aspect of those experiences and identities is not only celebrated and respected, but also treated fairly, acknowledged universally, and fully embraced as essential and paramount to collective progress and success.
By 2032, New England will see the graduation rate for White high school students drop by 21 percent, while graduation rates for Black and Latino students will jump by seven percent and 26 percent, respectively, according to the New England Board of Higher Education. We're going to experience more diversity in the New England workplace than ever before as members of the next generation finish high school and either go to college or join the workforce.
3 Ways to Get Started
So, how can employers foster a diverse and inclusive work environment? Here are three ideas:
- Identify and manage bias: Be aware that unconscious bias shows up in all aspects of our lives. Once we acknowledge this, we can take conscious steps to ensure that bias is addressed in the workplace in a manner that affirms the experiences and identities of all. Managers can promote programs, policies, and practices that emphasize equity for all employees, particularly those employees who have historically experienced inequity.
- Promote and reward diverse thinking and planning: Managers should challenge their workforce to think of new and innovative ways of doing their jobs that draw from their own lived experiences. The data tells us that the more diverse our staff is, the more creative and productive it becomes. Prioritize innovative thinking, and reward colleagues who take the initiative to develop new ways of doing their work.
- Be intentional about your workforce: Managers and staff should maintain hiring practices that embrace differences. Hire staff across generational, economic, social, religious, gender, and political lines to ensure a diverse workforce.
The World Day for Cultural Diversity calls on each of us to find new ways of working together collaboratively in the spirit of progress and healthy change. As we celebrate the principles of diverse and vibrant cultures, let's also recommit ourselves to living out those values to build healthier communities.
Join Us for Good to learn more about how the principles of diversity and inclusion can create healthier work environments and communities.