Worldview from Franklin County – Diversity: What does this concept really mean?
We had a church service the other Sunday with the congregation of another church. The idea is that while we are different, our beliefs are founded on the same principles.
Even though we are diverse and have differing perspectives on life, we all want to make humanity better. We believe that by working together, we can be more effective in our message and our work. Because of – not in spite of – our differences, together we are stronger. Diversity is strength.
As a teen in the 70s and a young man in the 80s, I witnessed the blossoming of this concept known as diversity. I remember Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior getting into political trouble over a joke about what diversity was.
For the most part I just thought of diversity as a political concept. In the Army, everyone was green, but it was a top-down management style, so little cultural influences ebbed in.
It wasn’t until I got involved in manufacturing that I saw what real diversity was and how important it is.
I was an electrical improvement specialist for a large auto maker.
Very early in this job, I was part of a meeting about the vanity lamp that is on the sun visor.
I was still a young man and had closely-held views. I though the vanity mirror was a complete waste of time and money. The car we were building was a family sedan; it was not a niche product, and marketing was looking for a broad appeal. This car was being sold internationally, and differing cultures expected different things out of a car.
I was just providing electrical expertise on the light operation. There were folks from assembly, part quality, process control and other areas of concern.
The interior improvement specialist, my direct counterpart, was a man from Nigeria. Assembly had a man from India, Parts Quality had a black woman from Detroit, the Lead was a woman from Canada. While we did resolve that issue during the meeting, my big takeaway was the importance of diversity.
While I did not think the vanity mirror was very important, I saw that it was important to others, and the cultural differences were vast. Why it was important was different to various cultures. There was the obvious: Some use it for its intended purpose – to check their appearance before exiting the car. Others saw it as a status symbol; cheap cars didn’t have lighted vanity mirrors, so while it does not make it a luxury car, it is a step above an entry level car.
What is important to some is not important to others. While I might not care whether there was a mirror in the visor, it would make some select a different car.
While a vanity mirror might seem a trivial matter, what this reveals is that what one would consider unimportant, someone from another culture – another perspective, another point of view – would consider that same things very important.
The only way to know is to include those with a different life history than you in making decisions that affect the entire community.
Dan Mueller is a regular guest columnist for the Franklin County Times. He lives in Russellville.