We use the word “culture” to refer to the values and ways prevalent in a certain geography—Japan, Argentina, California, Greece, Mexico, etc. Culture includes language, clothing, food, religion, and the customs. In the geographic culture of North America, we speak English (or Spanish). We wear Western clothing (vs. saris or kimonos or loin cloths). We eat with silverware (vs. with chop sticks or our hands).
We can break national culture down into “subsets of culture.” Within the U.S. culture, for example, a farmer from the South reflects different subsets of culture than a Brahmin Boston lawyer or a California surfer. There are ethnic sub-sets—African American, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, etc. There are regional subsets, e.g., Western (Northern California vs. Washington State), Eastern (Maine vs. New York), Southern (Virginia vs. Arkansas) and Mid-western (Northern Illinois vs. Iowa). And sub-sets based on socio-economics, sexual orientation, gender, generation and personality style. Your particular combination of such “subsets of culture” can be seen as your “cultural profile.” “Organizational diversity” exists when there are different cultural profiles within the organization.
From my website you can download an instrument called “Cultural Composition: How We Are Different.” The instrument includes 12 categories of subsets of culture (just examples of many possible categories). The instrument demonstrates how many kinds of differences there are. One use of the instrument is to assess your own cultural profile, the dominant cultural profile or profiles that most influence the culture (values and environment) of your organization, and the diversity within your organization.
Print out the instrument and make copies. Have team members fill in the circles that best describe them. Look particularly at the four categories of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Now ask:
- What are the cultural profiles of those with most influence in your team or organization? Is the culture of your organization most heavily influenced by the cultural profiles of those with the most power (“dominant cultural profiles”)?
- Do the norms in your organization reflect the norms of these dominant cultural profiles?
- Are perspectives and norms that differ from those “at the top” valued and appreciated?
- How much organizational diversity is there?
- What is the level of engagement of those whose cultural profiles vary significantly from the dominant cultural profiles?
This assessment enables you to begin to see who feels most naturally comfortable in your organization and who may feel less included. If you can measure the level of engagement of those whose cultural profiles are different from the organizational norms, you may see you have some work to do to leverage the benefits of diversity. You may have work to do to create an inclusive culture where engagement is deep and broad.
Please share what insights you have from this analysis.