The surprising reason we need to fight for Diversity

how limbic system affects our views on diversity and other reasons we need to fight that bias

It was spring of 2007; me and couple of my friends had recently moved to Buffalo, New York for a few months on what would be my first overseas assignment. Technically the second largest city in New York State, Buffalo had the feel of a sleepy suburb with rich industrial history.  Our work days began early in the morning in shared radio cabs that felt quite futuristic for a young twenty something. We made our way to a multi-story office in downtown Buffalo every weekday and religiously started back home 5pm in white radio cabs. As we were doing lots of “production support” activity turn by turn, we also had many late nights. Cooking, friends, sports and access to cheap electronics was just so much fun.  As many young foreigners living their dream in the US, we quickly figured out how to drive on the right side of the road and started renting cars over the weekends. I remember we didn’t waste a single weekend and traveled to tens of states and cities, like proper tourists, hours and hours on the interstate network and explored America as it should be explored.

On one such evening in New York City, a group of criminals / hooligans targeted us with racial slurs and intimidating behaviour in a harrowing episode. We were thankfully unharmed but the ordeal left us shaken to the core. I have to mention that my colleagues and almost everyone else we met were extremely generous, welcoming, friendly and simply brilliant. This is not a gripe about a country or a community but just my first brush with what we didn’t know back then as – “hate crime”. I am pretty sure it could have happened to anyone and anywhere and also that it exists everywhere including in India. All that mattered within that moment is that hate wasn’t to be tolerated. I made a promise that day to myself to fight hatred, racism, bigotry and bias.

Let’s look at 3 reasons why diversity can help address some of these issues.

1. We are not just fighting attitudes – we are fighting our very own Limbic system. This will take generations to change.

Stanford University’s Recruitment to Expand Diversity and Excellence program suggested that about 75 percent of whites and Asians demonstrated an implicit bias favoring whites over blacks (Link).

Limbic system dates back generations

In other words, Racism, bigotry, hatred, and xenophobia are all emotions. They run deep in many of us, we are taught that racism is bad however parts of our limbic system (Amygdala) respond to new and unfamiliar stimuli with apprehension and fear. This is referred to as implicit bias. While we can train our brain and become better at controlling our biases they don’t change overnight. They must change over generations and diversity will ensure we are exposed and not just taught. I studied graduate school in a class with 25 different nationalities, I have traveled to over 25 countries and I have operated in extremely diverse work environments. This has conditioned me to realise that diversity brings value, richness of thoughts, opinions and actions which is 💯 a good thing.

2. The universe is full of infinite diversities. That’s what makes it so exciting.

We know about racial / gender diversity – many of us have heard or operate with rightly laid out diversity and inclusion targets. How many of us consciously celebrate other kinds of diversity? Do you hire for example because someone brings brilliant creativity to your team? Do you connect with someone because they have much different life experiences than you? Do you avoid the unknown or you embrace it? Are you uncomfortable with uncertainty or do you thrive on it? I think it’s time we did all these things and know that diversity is much wider than just Gender or Race. For starters think about following kind of diversity.

  • Introverts vs Extroverts
  • Creatives vs Analytical
  • Northerner vs Southerner (regional)
  • English speaking vs vernacular
  • Deep thinker vs impulsives
  • Comic vs serious
  • Rich vs poor
  • Naive vs shrewd
  • Secure vs insecure
  • Known vs unknown
  • Straight vs Gay
  • Liberal vs conservative
  • Democrats vs Republican
  • Modi Love vs Modi Critical
  • Too young to be a leader vs Wise and Grey hair or simply a Boomer!
  • Highly Educated vs Drop outs
  • Ivy league vs non Ivy league
  • I could go on forever 😂

The more diverse the better though! Send your kid to a diverse school, let him or her mingle with non like-minded people, different cultures, travel – this is the best way to learn more about new cultures, food, music and so many other things! Hire for all kinds of diversity, invite external speakers to your team meetings, perhaps from a different country or region or even industry and see how much you learn and become better at everything. Diversity brings difference of opinion and views that results in healthy conflict. This almost always results in better outcomes.

3. Science very strongly favours diversity, without it we wouldn’t have evolved as the dominant species on this planet

Darwin’s theory of natural selection supports diversity. According to a related theory, A large gene pool has extensive genetic diversity and is better able to withstand the challenges posed by environmental stresses. So even marrying outside your cast or race can be a good thing for your gene pool 😁. So, babies and marriages aside, diversity on boards results in better returns, diversity on teams results in better results, diversity in data science teams results in better bias avoidance. It is widely researched that diversity of thought is not just good but it is great.

Universe is most likely teeming with life

In a universe most likely teeming with life our survival as a species seems to be dependent on diversity. How would you feel if you were the only kind of intelligent life in the universe? I would be certainly unhappy. So if not for all this, for the universe’s sake, would you join me in fighting for diversity?

By Abhi Shah

Hi, I’m Abhi. After living many years in London, me and my family re-located back to India in the summer of 2017. I spend most of my time working with a high performing team at Barclays in Pune, India and the rest with my son Anik! I have spent half of my career in commercial product roles and half in technology. I have also spent over 9 years living outside India, and have traveled to over 27 countries. Visit the Bio section of this website to learn more about me.

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