Friday, November 21, 2008

Equality and Diversity

Some might think this is a no-brainer. Certainly, there are many, many organizations claiming to go for both equality and diversity. A search of the web brings up an overwhelming number of organizations trumpeting equality and diversity--including just about every large company and university (not to mention dozens of training organizations), and even such unlikely candidates as the US Army.

But there are some challenges to the connection between diversity and equality. What I find most concerning is statements like Clay Shirky's: "Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality." Fortunately, Clay Shirky gives a more detailed explanation. While it sounds like he has scientific proof that you can't have equality, diversity, and freedom (elsewhere he simply says: "Diverse. Free. Equal. Pick two."), here he points out that "You can get out of a system with power law distributions by giving up on scale. ... one way to avoid the inequality of large systems is not to _have_ large systems." Since I believe we need to build small scale systems anyway, that may answer that concern.

With a slightly different take, several authors have devoted whole books to trying to figure out whether if progressives work for diversity, that foregoes working for equality. In my next two posts I will look at two very different takes on this by two different authors.

I want to end by something my mother once said to me. (I come from what might be considered, at least by today's standards, a large family.) My mother simply said, "Every one of my children is different and I love them all the same." There is the best statement I know on diversity and equality.

Quote of the day: "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." - Maya Angelou
Word (or phrase) of the day: Rhizosphere
Hero(es) of the day: Margaret Mead


CrackerLilo said...

I love your mother's statement. It sounds like it's had a powerful impact on you into adulthood. I wish more people would think like that. Not everyone can be in equal circumstances, of course, but people can have equal chances at opportunity without stupid artificial barriers put in the way.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for your comment, CrackerLilo. I think that my mother's attitude had a powerful effect on all of us--probably part of the reason that my siblings and I all get along, in spite of how different we all are.

You are correct, absolutely equal circumstances are impossible; still, we could certainly reduce the inequalities by quite a bit.