Written by Heather Bussing
February 25, 2021
Smaller business leaders often feel like they have fewer resources and do less hiring. Diversity, equity, and inclusion would be nice, but it feels unattainable or they're not sure where or how to start.
Instead, let's start with why diversity matters. Improving DE&I is important because it involves recognizing each person's fundamental humanity and basic human rights of dignity, equality, and fairness.
Humans come in the variety pack, with many different shapes, sizes, colors, skills, and abilities. Each person is unique and has different lived experiences and perspectives. At the same time, we are very much the same in that we require connection and love, to learn and create, and to feel safe and appreciated.
The only requirement to be here is to be here. There are no prerequisites to fill and no sorting hat. We also have no choice about where we are born, what our families are like, what we look like, what language we learn, and what foods we grow up eating.
We all deserve the opportunity to build a good life, to live and work in safety, to use our skills, energy, and talents in the world, and be fairly compensated. This should be the floor, not the ceiling. They are fundamental to human rights and the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Equal opportunity does not mean, everyone is on their own and if some people have more obstacles than others, that's their problem. We have to look at the obstacles and where they came from before we can just leave people to their own devices and fates. Human life depends on interconnectedness and cooperation.
While humans also love competition, the players all have to follow the same rules, or the game is never fair. Imagine a soccer tournament where one team plays under its own set of rules, which it gets to change every 11 minutes. One of their rules is that one of the opposing teams has to wear 3-inch heels to play. Another team has to carry 50-pound backpacks. A third team can only run backwards. Also, one of the rules is that when the opposing team scores a goal, the other team takes credit. When the teams with the disadvantage claim the competition is not fair, the rule-making team simply explains those are the rules and the other teams just need to work harder. They don't see the disadvantage because they have all the power to make the rules and are simply exercising their rights. But who gave them that power? Why are they in charge of everything?
The answer is centuries of racism, sexism, classism, and all the other 'isims. The rule making team has been in charge so long, they don't notice that no one else even has a voice. "It's just the way we've always done it."
While this system continues to work for the rule-making team, the game feels rigged and futile to everyone else.
Ask any person of color, disabled person, LBGTQ person, or woman whether they have felt like the soccer teams that are hobbled, carrying heavy weights, and running without being able to see where they're going.
Not only do marginalized people work harder to play the game, it's also a whole different reality and experience of the world. This other experience for so many humans is one that is not safe or fair. Rather, it feels like you don't belong, that people are judging you without ever getting to know you, that the system is designed so you can't succeed no matter how hard you try.
No one deserves to be treated this way, especially because of immutable characteristics they were born with and can't change.
We need to change the game so that everyone has an honest chance of success and we are all playing under the same rules, with the same basic gear. Then we all need to play fair and appreciate the different skills and experience that each of us brings.
The place to start is with human rights, which require justice, fairness, equality, dignity, safety, and real opportunities to thrive, both at work and as human beings.
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Resources on Equality and a Human Right:
Diversity: “The Right Thing to Do” Boston Business Journal
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch Website
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