Learn about Access and Inclusion
The Access and Inclusion program provides a community for all students, with a special focus on historically underrepresented populations.
Diversity is critical because of its subliminal messaging: If we see ourselves succeeding in a career path, it becomes statistically more probable that we will pursue that career path. This is called the CSI Effect, coined after the show in which female characters were featured in prominent scientific roles. Following the release of the show, women in the forensic pathology field increased by 11% (ABC News). From a corporate standpoint, diversity broadens our thinking. Homogenous groups with similar experiences are likely to approach problems in similar ways, which is why diversity is beneficial to financial success. If everyone had the opportunity and the societal support to pursue their passions, our world would be a better place. We collectively benefit from the best talent everyone has to offer.
While these facts are compelling arguments that support diversity initiatives, there are some deeper truths that keep us, as a society, from further progression on the issue. At the root of our impasse is the following maxim: The unfamiliar is downright scary. Many of us spend our entire lives deprogramming our defense mechanisms against the unfamiliar. What relationship does fear have with diversity? When we discuss concepts such as unconscious bias and inclusion, talking about why those topics are relevant today requires us to reflect on our own closely-held beliefs. What could be scarier than realizing we don’t know ourselves? Does that mean we really know nothing at all? That uncertainty is why we fear the level of personal investigation required to change the way we collectively act toward one another.
We live in a world that demands correctness over peace, and the systems we mature in perpetuate that belief: we train students to score well on exams and then train employees to score well on performance reviews. With a society that conditions us to value accuracy over connection, it’s no wonder conversations surrounding diversity are challenging. These conversations involve a level of self-analysis that almost immediately indicates, in some way, our erroneousness. It is impossible for us to understand everyone’s experiences because we are all different people. By consequence, we develop mechanisms with which to reconcile and rationalize our inability to understand. We convince ourselves that we are correct, that we are all the kind and good protagonists of our own stories. Regardless of the veracity of this belief, we, in our quest to be right, fail to hear one another and address the core wounds that feed our disharmony.
What can we do to reorient the situation toward growth? A great starting point is to speak with those we think are strange or scary or brilliant or ultimately, incredibly different from us. While we can’t control our first thoughts about people and situations, we can certainly control our second thoughts (and consequently, our actions).
Humanity is worth so much more than the division we see in our world today: power and financial gain are ephemeral in comparison to the lasting impact of human kindness.
It starts with all of us examining ourselves, our beliefs and our ideas to bring about change for a kinder future. A kinder future requires us to gently set aside our fears and place our faith in strangers, trusting that as we open our minds and hearts, they will mirror our vulnerability and choose to do the same.