Diversity is "otherness" – those human qualities which are different from our own and different from the groups to which we belong. It has two dimensions: primary and secondary. Primary elements of diversity include things like age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race and sexual orientation. Secondary elements of diversity can be thought of as things that can change, including educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs and work experiences. Generally, diversity is the quality of being made of many different elements, forms, kinds or individuals. In a workplace context, diversity focuses on representation of a variety of not only backgrounds but also on a variety of approaches, perspectives, attitudes and practices.
We live in an era of accelerating change in almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Valuing diversity helps us move beyond stereotypes and prejudices, to use our differences as assets. When we prize a wide variety of backgrounds, points of view, and skills, we not only create an environment of acceptance, respect and open-mindedness, but also develop a superior capacity to craft alternative solutions.
Diversity in our office is critical to our success in meeting the challenges of the future. People are our most important resource, and when they are diverse, our collective differences strengthen our office. The fact that clerk’s offices can be quite complex, both individually and organizationally, sometimes is regarded as an impediment to progress, yet that very complexity ensures a diversity that often contributes to the best approaches and solutions to challenges.
Diversity helps us recognize more easily the assumptions that can limit opportunities. Diversity increases the number of ideas. Without diversity we would all be alike, crippled in our ability to think of new solutions, even to the point of becoming stagnant. Diversity also reflects the society in which we live, and a diverse office thus maintains the public’s perception of us as representative of the people we serve.
To truly cultivate diversity, we need to work to understand ourselves and what our differences are, then build on that knowledge. We need to foster an environment of acceptance of differences, where we do not prejudge and do not accept intolerant behavior. We need to recruit and accommodate the needs of a diverse work force. We need always to solicit, involve, and listen to input from as wide a variety of people and functions as possible, and promote diversity as a key element of success in all we do.
Fundamentally, valuing diversity is based on having a deep respect for the differences that surround us, taking everyone seriously, caring about everyone’s needs and desires, and acting upon these principles in our daily work lives. As with many of our public service standards, valuing diversity strengthens our capacity to achieve several other standards as well: accessibility, effective communication, quality, teamwork and cooperation, and innovative practices. Valuing diversity, then, is fundamental to fulfilling the public’s trust in us as public servants.