“Only among equals is it possible to be different”

We live in an increasingly globalized society, a multicultural mix of different ways of living and perceiving the world. Diversity can be of great value if we can bring it to organizations, companies, services, etc. Baroness Usha Prashar, an independent member of the British House of Lords, and Celia de Anca, professor and Director of the Center for Diversity in Global Management, IE Business School and author of the book Beyond Tribalism: Managing Identities in a Diverse World, offered their points of view on this subject at the Hay Festival of Segovia session that was held on the campus of IE University.

Usha Prashar doesn’t think there is a standard definition of diversity. It’s usually understood as differences in gender, color, religion… Nevertheless, she explains, these are superficial aspects. For her, diversity is something much deeper, to which must be added each person’s “perspectives and experiences.”

Although diversity is a very controversial subject, according to Prashar “it has become stagnant.” The companies have mostly turned it into a process and a final product where what counts is how many people of different nationalities there are within an organization. “Diversity must integrate different perspectives and make them a part of the debate, that’s where real learning is to be found,” she adds.

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Celia de Anca, for her part, insists that the companies should not seek financial benefits through integration. “For example, the fact of having a woman on the board of directors doesn’t necessarily generate profits,” she explains. This approach is mistaken in that it doesn’t help integration and real diversity.

Usha Prashar recognizes that she still hasn’t found “the theory of diversity” but feels it is necessary to integrate new perspectives so that people can learn from each other. “That’s its intrinsic value,” she explains. “We must be clear about what kind of diversity we want to achieve so as to take advantage of the tools that already exist. Just because two people have different origins, they don’t necessarily have to be different,” she observes.

Celia de Anca ended the conversation with a phrase that sums up that vision of diversity that goes beyond appearances: “Only among equals is it possible to be different, and only among equals is there conflict.”

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