I just spent the last two weeks in China. It was an unbelievable trip and I can’t wait to go back and see all of the things that I couldn’t get to. If you haven’t been, I’d recommend making the journey around the world for it.
Having spent my entire life in the Northeast US, my first trip to Asia was…different. When I’ve travelled to Europe in the past, I maybe could’ve passed for a citizen. It wasn’t until I opened my mouth that I was clearly marked as a foreigner, and an American one at that. In China, not so much. As a white guy, I stood out in crowds and drew plenty of attention. When I walked down the street, I was blatantly (and unabashedly) stared at. A couple of people even asked me to be in their pictures because I was such an oddity. Go figure.
I was only there for two weeks, so I dealt with it. It was a temporary nuisance since I don’t get that at home. But there are plenty of you that do and I now have a much better appreciation for those of you that get that kind of bother regularly, especially at work.
Diversity is important. We all know that. But sometimes it’s just piled in with the rest of the HR initiatives, so it gets lost in the shuffle. Companies hire people and express that they have a diverse practice. They’re not wrong, they’re just not seeing the whole picture. Yes, diversity is incorporating employees who have varied opinions, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. But the other piece of it, the only that really shows that companies get it, is an understanding that these same employees want to feel like they’re not alone in having these varied points of view. They want to feel like they’re surrounded by a balance of people that share their experience and people that don’t. So having the token member of every minority/ethnicity doesn’t do any good. Having the right mix of people from all backgrounds will speak to “being diverse”.
It’s a case of showing over telling. Saying that you’re committed to diversity is a good first step, but it’s just words. Making hiring decisions that back that up will actually lend credence.
As for China itself, the country needs some work on the whole “showing” thing. At their Ethnic Minority Museum, they feature this sign, which is pretty outrageous, especially when you consider the plight of the Tibetan people: