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“Congratulations, you just took the life of Beethoven!”: Embedding Diversity!

February 22, 2014

Diversity has become clichéd and corporatised. It is almost fashionable if not mandatory to have a diversity policy, a committee and even champions. Issues relating to race, gender and colour must be addressed per prescribed protocols & templates. 

Using my own (borrowed) cliché, the corporate stories are about getting the physics of diversity right. During the last two days I spotted these two interesting developments reported by Reuters. “When Cheryl Boone Isaacs presides over the Oscars on March 2, her mere presence will convey a statement on diversity in Hollywood as the first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and its third woman in its 86 years.”

“Honda Motor Co. is considering diversifying its all-Japanese, all-male board by appointing a foreigner and could move as early as Monday, when it unveils its next slate of directors, sources close to the company said.

Japan’s big companies are under pressure to bring in outsiders to bolster governance, risk management and global perspective, having traditionally chosen board members from senior male managers who had spent their careers at the company.”

The author of the following piece sends home a strong message, retaining all its sensitivity, that makes you wonder why is there so much song and drama about Diversity. Is it not a basic human virtue that should be embedded into the hearts and minds of every individual – to be practiced religiously by all of us?  Let’s not forget that rather than be just a policy document thrust top down, to get diversity truly right we need to get the chemistry right as well. 

‘A medical-school professor once posed this medical/ethical question to his students: “Here’s a family history – the father has syphilis. The mother had TB. They already have four children. The first is blind. The second has died. The third is deaf. The fourth has TB. Now the mother is pregnant again. The parents come to you for advice. They are willing to abort their child if you decide they should. What do you say?”

After students shared various individual opinions, the professor placed them into groups to make final decisions. After deliberating, every group reported that it would recommend an abortion to the parents.

“Congratulations,” the professor told his class. “You just took the life of Beethoven!”

What is the lesson for the workplace? A person’s inherent value and potential don’t depend on family background or social station. God has created each person with worth and skill and promise. The way we treat people on the job – and the decision of whom we hire – shouldn’t be tainted by prejudice that’s based on race, economic status, appearance, or handicap. This may seem like stating the obvious, but we might be surprised if we honestly evaluated the way we perceive others.

Every person has potential to add music to the great symphony called life.’

Source: God’s Little Devotional Book For the Workplace

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