What is cultural diversity? Definition, benefits and challenges
Living in such a diverse world, when you step out of your bubble you come into contact with people of different backgrounds and lifestyles, perspectives, values, norms and behaviors that determine to some degree the way we are.
So it is important that we understand and respect each of these aspects, and that is precisely what cultural diversity is all about, bringing together people from different backgrounds and cultures and creating an environment that not only recognizes the differences between those cultures and backgrounds, but acknowledge them.
Cultural diversity helps create a space for people to be authentically themselves, including aspects such as sexual orientation, identity, religion, language, gender, disability, socioeconomic status and ethnicity.
What are the benefits of cultural diversity?
Cultural diversity not only creates a safe and comfortable space for all people, but has a number of aspects that benefit our economy, society and education system.
Economic benefits of cultural diversity:
On the employment side of the cultural diversity in the workplace, multiple studies show that companies that employ a diverse workforce, and empower them with an inclusive culture, achieve higher productivity, business performance, innovation and a variety of other benefits.
All evidence suggests that diverse companies outperform those that do not increase diversity on a variety of business metrics, with companies with the highest levels of racial diversity achieving 15 times the sales revenue.
Diversity stimulates economic development and homogeneity holds it back.
Societal benefits of cultural diversity:
In society, the importance of cultural diversity grants you the opportunity to know more about different beliefs and what people need, as individuals we have our own beliefs and expect them to be respected, so cultural diversity gives people independence to live their lives freely.
It also creates a community where individuals have a sense of belonging for their environment and at the same time, they want to learn and explore more about other cultures, for example, it helps us to explore a variety of different foods from different ethnic groups and backgrounds.
The challenges of cultural diversity
There are many challenges to cultural diversity today, but we have detailed them below.
Misunderstandings and stereotypes
This is one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome as a society to promote and interact cultural diversity, as we often generalize a group of people by their similar characteristics.
However, the problem comes when all members of a cultural group are pigeonholed as having the same characteristics, especially in a negative way.
Stereotypes can lead to prejudice and discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional.
Causing us to disregard individual differences and this interferes with our approach to others.
Discrimination and prejudice
Cultural discrimination is another major barrier, originating when one part of society believes that certain traditions, customs, beliefs or habits are inferior to others. As a result, groups that are accustomed to these characteristics are subjected to mistreatment.
On the other hand, stereotypes become prejudices when we take similar characteristics of a society and group them together to draw something negative from them.
In most cases, cultural discrimination and prejudice are due to the economic and social situation of a country, different ideologies and customs in the same region.
Communication in general terms is of utmost importance to ensure people’s quality of life and an obstacle to fair and equal communication and exchange of knowledge.
Adaptation and integration difficulties
If we take into account all the previous challenges, the biggest obstacle results: if society has prejudices and stereotypes with a group of people, they will discriminate against them, and if this group of people cannot communicate because they do not speak the same language, they will not be able to adapt and integrate into society.
That is why, in order to overcome this challenge, it is important to get down to work with everything that is hindering cultural diversity.
How to promote cultural diversity?
Are there really ways to promote cultural diversity? Yes, and here are the strategies that have given the best results.
Encourage open-mindedness and understanding
As we mentioned earlier, most prejudices and stereotypes are born because some people do not give themselves the opportunity or make the effort to understand others who have different beliefs, cultures or preferences from their own.
To promote diversity and inclusion as a core value, society must strike a balance of attributes and include people with varied traits, fostering open-mindedness, tolerance and empathy.
Supporting cultural diversity education
On the one hand, promoting cultural diversity in the classroom is key for students to be truly inclusive and also contributes to being more empathetic and tolerant, which translates into more egalitarian societies.
Teaching in schools, workplaces and the media about other cultures will break down the barrier of prejudice and nurture people’s interest in learning much more.
Promote inclusive policies and practices
For example, in a workplace having a multilingual team, having a diverse range of ages working together, and having policies that are openly against discrimination greatly promotes cultural diversity.
In a school setting having students from all over the world, accepting and respecting all religious practices and traditions in which students participate while supporting them in sharing their cultures with each other encourages cultural diversity.
Encourage cross-cultural communication and collaboration
By creating safe spaces for people of different cultures, genders, ages, and sexual orientations to communicate and get to know each other, you will be encouraging them to exchange different points of view and knowledge.
Moreover, in today’s world of remote work, intercultural management and international teams, companies must provide tools for their employees to relate to each other to avoid misunderstandings, confusion, offenses and generalizations in the workplace.