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3 common mistakes that people make when they think about diversity

‘Diversity’ is a term that is used so frequently, we all believe we know exactly what it means. But do we?… This post helps to uncover the truth.

Now that you’ve got some factual understanding about ‘Diversity’ from my earlier post , and you know about my own initial confusion regarding what it meant, we can move on in this blogpost to consider some of the misunderstandings around this subject.

‘Diversity’ is a word that is used in a variety of settings to describe a variety of understandings. This blogpost aims to clear up some of the most common assumptions that are made about what ‘Diversity’ is, how it should be done, and why it should never be just a tick-box exercise!

Mistake #1: That everybody knows what ‘Diversity’ refers to (when we’re talking about people)

a group of diverse children holding hands and dancing and singing in a circle

“Of course I know what that is! It’s …. er…. um…. well….”

This is such an obvious assumption to make! But the problem is that ‘diversity’ is a very woolly or fuzzy term that means different things to different people. Have you ever stopped to think about what the definition of diversity really is? Or is it one of those things you just think you know, until you really stop to consider it, and then you realise you’re just not sure what the correct definition really is.

When we don’t clarify to each other how we define such a term, then we immediately leave ourselves open to misunderstandings, confusion and frustration. The problem is that ‘diversity’ means different things to different people at different times in their lives!

If we’re not confident about what our own understanding of the term is, we may well end up talking and acting at cross-purposes with our colleagues, family and friends.

It’s therefore well worth establishing what your own definition of diversity is, so that you can measure your understanding of the word against others when the need arises. This ensures that you are both setting out on your journey (whether that be a conversation, an activity or some future planning) from the same starting point.

We spend some time in our first course module considering this issue from the perspective of your own values and life-choices – so that you can make your own mind up about what ‘diversity’ means to you.

And obviously, we share our understanding of the term at the outset of the course, to make absolutely sure we are together from the very beginning!

Mistake #2: That everybody instinctively knows how to ‘do’ diversity

a group of diverse children holding hands and dancing and singing in a circle

“You just have to be nice to everybody. Right?”

Because there is a presumption that we all know what diversity is, then we can just get on with ‘doing’ it. However, as we saw above, if we’re not even at the same starting point, how can we ever hope to ‘do’ diversity successfully – in a way that we can be effective and that we can trace our own improvement at diversity awareness?

There’s a bit more to it than just being ‘nice’ to each other. (That leads us down another rabbit hole – what does ‘nice’ actually mean??). If we think we are ‘doing’ diversity already, we might also believe that we don’t need to improve our behaviour towards others at all. If we’re not informed about all the pitfalls that lie in front of us with regard to ‘diversity’, how can we know we are always acting respectfully towards others? Are we absolutely sure we’re not biased or judgemental towards others in any way?

There are so many aspects to ‘doing’ diversity respectfully, that the only way to change our diversity ‘blind spots’ is to identify what they are and get to work on them. Our course does just that by offering the opportunity to learn, reflect and relate our discoveries to our own ways of living.

Mistake #3: That doing a diversity-awareness course is just a tick-box exercise

a group of diverse children holding hands and dancing and singing in a circle

“Yeah. I did that 1-day diversity training a while back now. It was something about accepting each other’s differences. Think I fell asleep for half of it. It was soooo boring!”

This quote says it all! Recent research has shown that in corporate environments where employees have attended short diversity training courses, the effects of any learning that has taken place don’t actually last for very long. The training is often regarded as something that is important, but there is little effort to carry the learning through on a consistent and lifelong basis.

This research also goes on to suggest that active learning, where participants are required to engage with their learning in practical ways, is the most effective way to contribute to positive change. That’s why we offer a variety of ways for students to engage with our content, and why they finish the course with a set of practical strategies that they can apply to their own settings immediately.

Becoming diversity-aware is an organic and evolving skill that gets better the more we do it. Being positively diversity-aware is a life choice that we can all make. After all, it’s only through engaging with a living and breathing diversity-awareness that we can do our part (in small steps) to make our world a fairer place for all!

If you are interested in finding out about your own level of diversity awareness, download our FREE Diversity Audit below!

Diversity means so many different things to so many different people!

a group of diverse children holding hands and dancing and singing in a circle


Dr Clare Seymour
Clare has spent much of her professional career (over 30 years) in international settings. Part of her Doctoral research involved exploring the often hidden aspects of institutional racism. As a result she has a longstanding interest in, and passion for, promoting positive Diversity.

In addition to school music-teaching, Clare also has over 10 years’ experience working as an international music examiner – an understanding and respect for Diversity is so crucially important in every aspect of her practice.