Let's Add Variety to Diversity Training

I'm sick of the term diversity. You say it and people roll their eyes. "Yes, we know. Diversity’s great. It’s a core value. Next."

Even SNL's Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon, poked fun at diversity training in an uncomfortable 90s diversity-training video

I'm all for diversity, but I’m ready for a new term. How about variety? It’s the spice of life, you know. OK, it probably won't catch on, but for this one blog, I’m giving it a shot.

Becoming a Cheerleader

I became variety's biggest cheerleader when my all-female writer's group was struggling. We met regularly, wrote and encouraged one another, but our writing wasn’t going anywhere.

One day I got a rejection letter that would change everything. It simply read: We’re passing. Your male characters sound like a bunch of women.

After that letter, the group decided to invite some men into the group. It was a great move but our quiet little group was no more. Conflict became a mainstay.

Men were telling the women things like, "No guy starts a conversation off by saying 'I feel'" or "Where’s the action? All your characters do is talk." And the women were telling the men that their stories could benefit from less guns and maybe an intelligent woman or two. We were arguing and debating and . . . we were writing better stories.

One Ingredient Doesn't Make a Cake

It's easy to create an environment of people like you, where you feel comfortable and no one challenges each other. It's nice when everyone agrees, but it's not the best atmosphere for coming up with new ideas and fresh approaches.

Great things can come out of mixing it up. 

Getting the Message out

If you're still trying to get more variety into your company, there are all kinds of ways to go about it. For starters, there are many training videos online. Or check out this Wall Street Journal article, How to Increase Workplace Diversity, which covers everything from developing a better a hiring strategy by talking to community organizations to help find candidates.

The first step though is truly buying into variety. Without it, business suffers. That variety in the workplace keeps us thinking and challenging ourselves. It makes us see and react to things outside our personal comfort zone. It helps companies adapt more easily and better relate to the wide variety of customers. And it helps the bottom line.

Don't wait. Add a little variety!

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.