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Creating Value from Diversity in the Caribbean

June 02 2014 - by Ms. Carole Houlihan, CLP Gender Specialist

Around the world, political, business and public sector leaders are claiming that diversity is the key to success in a globalized, multicultural world. Over time, ideas about diversity have evolved from recognizing diversity, to embracing diversity to creating value out of diversity.

Defining Diversity:  Diversity is now defined more broadly to refer to the self-identification of people based on their collective experience or qualities. Depending on the context, diversity can encompass religious, ethnic or cultural groups, sex or gender identity, sexual orientation, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, age, income, and language.

The Value of Diversity:

The benefits of valuing diversity to an organization include:  

  • Delivering Effective Service or Targeted Products: Meeting the needs of a broader client baseby relating to people from different backgrounds.
  • Increased Creativity and Problem solving: Diversity of thought and skills result in more innovative solutions.
  • Increased Productivity: Diversity and inclusion brings different talents together to work towards common goals with different skills, strengths and perspectives. 
  • The Ability to Attract and Retain Talent adds a competitive edge to any organization.  Feeling included and appreciated increases loyalty and feeling of belonging.  Language skills enhance an organization’s ability to deliver services to a diverse client base and compete internationally.

With demographic shifts, advances in technology and communications, and globalization, diversity is quickly becoming a driver of growth around the world.

Perhaps Rex Nettleford said it best:  

The Caribbean…has struggled for all of five centuries with mastering the management of the complexity of…diversity.  It has been the easy solution of peoples of different origins (ethnic or religious) who find themselves in close encounters to live side by side rather than together. But the communications technology revolution and the tremendous improvement in travel have dictated the urgent need for people to learn to live together, to deal with the dilemma of difference in ways that will serve the enhancement of the quality of life for human beings and to ensure positive human development well into the third millennium. 

(The Caribbean’s Creative Diversity: The Defining Point of the Region’s History.  Lecture by Prof. Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor, UWI, 21 March 2003).

Caribbean leaders send a powerful message when they demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion that goes beyond rhetoric. 

  • What can you do?
  • How well does your workplace culture value diversity?
  • What are the challenges in creating a diverse and inclusive culture?  
  • Do you welcome and value the contributions of all?
  • How diverse are your personal networks outside the workplace?