While still in school, I had the opportunity of spending a whole month with Juanna Inez. Her deeply tanned skin , thick, dark hair and deep-set dark eyes, spelled out her Spanish roots aloud – not that it effected our friendship in any way! That month, I learnt so much from school – new food tastes, novel music, festivals and ceremonies and even a few words of a new language! Time flew and Juanna, being an exchange student had to return to her original school in the Spanish capital city of Madrid, but she took along with her a taste of Indian culture, food, mannerisms and of course a suitcase full of vibrant Indian clothes! It took me a couple of more years to understand that what had taken place back then was a fine exchange of cultures, which had resulted in greater opportunity for personal growth and a life-long friendship. Today, I understand even more the importance of cultural diversity and inclusiveness, and this is what I wish to highlight through this piece of written communication.
World Day for Cultural Diversity and Development
Recognizing that cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable development, in December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005:
> Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
> Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and
> Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
> Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms
Why Does Cultural Diversity Matter?
Today, while we are witnessing the heart-wrenching Ukrainian crisis, the only action we can take is contemplate why did this crisis arise? As a matter of fact, although not the sole reason, three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Hence, bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.
Also, cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. This is captured in the culture conventions, which provide a solid basis for the promotion of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is thus an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development.
Reaping the Rewards of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion at the Workplace
Acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity are conducive to dialogue among civilizations,
cultures, companies and employees. Diversity empowers us to respect other cultures and
encourage the feelings of mutual understanding. Most importantly, when companies embrace and value employees of different backgrounds into an inclusive workplace, they reap the rewards in creativity and innovation, a strong company culture, improved employee performance, and more. However, there is a fine line of difference between diversity and inclusivity. Inclusion has to be understood as very different from diversity because simply having a wide roster of demographic characteristics won’t make a difference to an organization’s bottom line unless the people who fall into any one demographic feel welcomed. Inclusion refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging.
Employees who feel they need to cover parts of their identities can lead to behaviour in the
workplace that is driven by fear. This can be extremely detrimental for the employee and the
employer alike. Where the employee would be tempted to quit the organization, the organization too would lose a talent force. Hence, drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool allows an organization to attract and retain the best talent.
Again, embracing cultural diversity in the workplace is an important first step for businesses that want to be competitive on an international scale. Yes, you read it right, you need to cooperate in order to compete! Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable.
Studies have proved that organizations with a culture of diversity and inclusion are both happier and more productive. Where working in homogeneous teams can seem easier, it can cause a business to settle for the status quo. Diversity, on the other hand, can breed healthy competition, stretching a team in a positive way to achieve their best. So, go out there and join hands to embrace change compassionately and responsibly!