By Katherine Bethany, FSAVE – President, SAVE International
This month I’ve been giving some thought to diversity. The reason for this reflection is that several times in the last week or so the topic has come up in a variety of settings. So, it seemed natural to use it as the topic of my article.
One area this came up was when I was preparing an article for our Gulf Chapter reflecting on my experience as a keynote speaker at the Saudi Council of Engineers Conference in Riyadh. Discussing my experience led me to remark on the fact that I was happy that there were women at the conference in Saudi Arabia. This led me to highlight the need that every Value Manager understands – the need for diversity on our Value Study teams. The challenge for all of us is to make sure we truly get diverse teams, and I don’t mean just diversity in technical disciplines (although that is key too). But we really need to make sure we have diversity in people – old/young, different cultural backgrounds, different skin colors and yes, males and females. If you look around the team and only see one type of person, you might very well be setting your team up for failure and you will not be looking at the project/product/process with different filters. It is tough to do, as we all tend to gravitate toward those we know/understand.
Another example of how diversity came up in my mind was that I was asked this week how I “survived” living in so many places as I grew up. (My father was in the military and I lived in 14 different towns and five different countries in my first 18 years of life.) I was kind of shocked at the question because in talking to the person who posed the question, they obviously thought it must have been a horrible upbringing. They could not have been more wrong – it was a wonderful childhood as it proved to me that people all over the world are kind, compassionate, intelligent and in many cases much better off than many Americans. It does not matter the color of their skin, their religious background, country of birth, their economic or social statue or even their gender. Yes, there are also those who are hateful, bitter, angry and bigots – but again that occurs in all cultures, locations, religions, etc. The problem is that people who never get to know someone who is “different” truly believe that the “other people” are not as good as they are or that they are lacking in some way.
Most of us fall into the “discrimination” trap occasionally, like the time I assumed that a well-dressed male was the engineering manager I was coming to visit in an office (he was the administrative assistant). What sets the enlightened apart is the recognize that they have just judged someone based solely on their appearance and resolve to do better. As value study team leaders, I challenge you to be on the lookout for discrimination and call it out when you see it, so that your studies do not suffer because of the hidden biases.