I attended a seminar a couple of weeks ago on cultural differences and diversity. This was organised by an internal team, and delivered by peers. All of the information was taken from existing presentations that were provided by our HR department. The room was full. There must have been about 60 people in the room. I was sitting in the back row. And I looked around. And I smiled. I was the only brown face in the room.
Diversity, I know, comes in many forms. But…when corporations and business talk about diversity what do they really mean. Do they truly want to embrace diversity? The words are there, but the actions?
Later that same day, I was in a meeting and talking to a colleague. We hadn’t spoken to each for sometime, because we were working on different projects. And we somehow got talking about food. Food is that thing that we all have in common. She mentioned it was Indian Food Week in the staff canteen, and if I had been. Now. Yes. I am British-Indian. Yes. I like Indian food. In fact, I like it so much that I would not consider going to a Swedish staffed canteen to sample their so-called Indian food.
Anyway, I reflected. Was she stereotyping? When listening to the presentation on culture differences; the presenter said that we use stereotypes to navigate the cultural highways. They are our GPS. They allow us to categorise people when we first meet them. This helps us make sense of each other. To help us understand each other.
I would go a step further. They are only a starting point. They help us begin our journey. They are not the destination. This is the danger with stereotypes. Not all of us fall into the same box. Or not all of us fit into the same box. We have some common traits. Common some behaviours. Common some beliefs. These come from our culture and our upbringing. But we are individuals. All too often we put people in a particular box, and leave them there.