I’m a 6’1″ white guy – I’m straight, Christian, married with kids, and healthy. Statistically, I have a significant advantage over pretty much every demographic in the world.
And you know what? That really pisses. me. off.
I’m roughly at the mid-point of my career and (knock on wood) experienced a fair amount of success so far. I like to think that it is solely 100% because of my work ethic and smarts, but I am not so naive to ignore the likelihood that biases, both conscious and unconscious, have worked in my favor over the years.
Here’s the truth that I didn’t know 15 years ago, but do know today: The best teams are those with the most diversity.
Give me a room with a group of folks who look different, sound different, and think different, and I guarantee we will come up with better ideas and get more done than the same room with a group of people who look and act like one another. My best experiences from both a work and personal growth perspective have arisen through interactions with people who are not like me.
Having grown up on a farm in the middle of Nebraska, I never got to know anyone who was truly different from me until I went to college. Suddenly I engaged with students from all around the world, and then when I lived and worked in Washington, DC for a number of years, the level of diversity was amped up to 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. I never knew how big the world was out there, and the smallness of my own world-view, until then.
It was truly amazing to be the minority in many of my team and client meetings, given that it was an experience that I never had before. I traveled to India a few times, and for the first time in my life I was the minority on the streets, literally a sole white guy surrounded by thousands of Indians in the marketplaces. It was an experience that is hard for me to put in words, but one that minorities here in the US experience every day. It was an anomaly for me, yet a way of life for so many.
We are now seeing the pain and anguish across the country spill out onto the streets – the headlines today are focused on racial tensions between blacks and whites. This is a longstanding issue in our country that we need to address, and it will take a cultural mindset shift to do so.
Oppression and biases take many forms, and you cannot always see what makes us unique by looks alone. Gender identity, sexual orientation, mental illness, physical handicaps, religious beliefs, childhood experiences, and more – I wish I could find a way to say this in better words, but it is on all of us to recognize that every person on this planet is unique, and we all carry different burdens. We will be strengthened as individuals and as a society when we can each find a way to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’.
No person, government, or company is perfect. Sprious is headquartered in Nebraska, which is not exactly a hotbed of diversity – but we are committed to doing our best on a daily basis to embrace an open and honest culture for our team. Our team is spread across the globe, and we have a multitude of ethnic, religious, sexual, and mental health backgrounds. This is what makes a great team. This is what makes me proud to work here.