Cultural diversity: do you know everything it brings your life?

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Cultural diversity is a sign of empathy and respect, but it also helps us learn, to grow as people and even be smarter. 

Every so often a scandal forms on the Internet. The image of the board of directors of a company, a work group of some public sector or the jury of cultural prizes appear in the press, and the social networks are up in arms.

The cause is usually the homogeneity of these groups: all gentlemen of a certain age, white skin and dressed in identical suits. And Twitter shoots: “Where are the women?”, “They do not represent me”, some say. “Is this our society?” others ask.

But what does the National Statistics Institute say?

The answer, with data in hand, is a firm “no”. According to the publication Spain in figures 2017 foreigners in the country now account for 9.5% of the population, with a majority of people from Morocco and Romania (31.1% of this portion of the population comes from these countries).

These figures, however, should not mislead us. Immigration is not a new phenomenon, so we can find Spaniards of the most diverse skin tones, religious beliefs, customs and languages. In short, Spain is a country where cultural diversity has reigned for a long time.

Diversity enriches us

Although, unfortunately, some react with fear (or worse still, with violence) in the presence of something that is different, cultural diversity is a phenomenon that enriches us all. It makes us more tolerant, more open and even more intelligent. For this reason, and for mere empathy, we must all work to create more inclusive spaces starting with the schools, continuing with our social and family environment and, of course, in companies and organisations.

More efficient

A study by the University of Stanford of 2006 put it to several groups to solve a mystery in the style of fiction novels. Groups were formed of individuals of different races. It was found that diverse groups were more efficient in solving the problem. The different perspectives in approaching the challenge (based on different cultures and experiences) were key to solving the mystery.

More open to different opinions

Contrary to what one might think, when we discuss social issues, talking to people from different backgrounds makes us more receptive to opinions different from ours. This was demonstrated by a joint study by various universities in California, where 350 students were set out in groups to discuss issues controversial, but of social interest (such as the death penalty).

It was found that when the different opinions came from people of other ethnic groups, they caused greater reflection in the group, especially among the white students taking part.

More creative and innovative

It may simply be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But groups and companies that value innovation and new ideas are benefited by diverse environments; so much so that, in the case of companies, they even improve their performance.

The reason could be that cultural diversity causes group members to anticipate different approaches to problems, making them work harder to defend their point of view. This means that, according to a study by Economic Geography -which considered 7,615 businesses-, companies that have a more culturally diverse workforce create more novel products.

And with higher profits

Companies that form a diverse workforce earn more. This is confirmed by a recent study by the McKinsey consultancy, which this article in the Forbes magazine echoes: companies with greater gender parity in managerial positions are 21% more likely to have above-average profits. This rises to 43% in the case of staff with ethnic and cultural diversity.

All this without mentioning how  interesting and fun it has been to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the pleasure of savouring warm and freshly made arepas or the richness that different cultures bring. And it is that sharing different customs and experiences makes us all grow.

Educating from infancy

Although tolerance and respect can be part of each person’s personality, it is very important to nurture them from a very young age. Educating through these values, both in schools and at home, is to educate in respect and consideration for others. It is to educate in the acceptance of diversity, and to admit differences. And it is to help improve social coexistence.

Instilling these principles from an early age means increasing the possibility of social interaction with other people. It means developing thought and other values such as humility, and supposes having an open mind to options and beliefs different from ours, accepting that there are other ways of thinking.

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