This week we celebrate women everywhere with the 8 March being International Women’s Day. I am writing a series of posts dedicated to the discussion of gender parity in the workplace and the vital importance of diversity.
I’ve been an expat all my life. My family moved, when I was 3 years old, to Hong Kong and we lived there until I finished high school. My schools were filled with children from all over the world; one headcount revealed that 65 different countries were represented within my secondary school. At 18, I ‘repatriated’ to my ‘home’ country to study at The University of Manchester and following that, worked in London for a few years which is obviously another melting pot of different nationalities.
Sydney was the next place that beckoned, where I lived for a further 7 years and our little family is now currently living in Singapore after 4 years being immersed in a vast array of different festivals, cultures, religions, food and languages.
Our children, who are currently 6 and 2, are enjoying similar experiences to my own. Our daughter attends an international school where her classmates come from all over the world. In her class, there are 11 boys and 11 girls. They come from UK, Australia, Singapore, China, Spain, Mexico, Korea, India. They learn about Diwali, Christmas, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and one of the school’s core values is to ‘celebrate our differences’.
What is so wonderful about being surrounded by cultural variety, and the different opinions and experiences this inevitably invites, is that children become totally comfortable from a very young age with :
- Understanding and respecting other perspectives
- Feeling confident in the company of people from backgrounds quite different from their own
- Being open to anything different from themselves
- Seeing difference as ‘interesting’ rather than ‘something to fear’
It also makes children more comfortable with change, which is an inevitable part of life. And encourages a curiosity about the world and about travel which helps children see the world as being highly accessible.
Making children realise that cultural diversity is ‘the norm’ is an inevitable consequence of expat life. It becomes so ingrained in their psyche that very little ever seems to faze them. They embrace challenge with gusto and as though it were nothing.
The more colourful. The more different. The more interesting. The more alternate opinions the better. This invites curiosity. Flexibility. Open mindedness. Progress. And less time is wasted.
In comparison, environments that lack diversity are one-dimensional. They are brittle and taut. The same ideas are circulated. Very little learning occurs. Problems will always be answered with the same solutions and too much energy and time are wasted resisting change.
Quite simply, diversity is the way of the future.
Rebecca Allen is an Executive Coach and Facilitator who has been working for over a decade with Corporate Women who want to progress in their careers and stand out from the crowd. Http://www.clearhorizoncoaching.com