When we think of diversity, we often think of race or ethnicity. But the truth is that diversity goes far beyond the color of our skin. Diversity includes individual differences in our personalities and learning styles as well as group or social differences like race, socioeconomics, gender and religious affiliation. To have a truly diverse community requires an inherent commitment, demonstrated through actions, that recognizes and values these differences. At Blue Oak, diversity is a core value for many important reasons. Take a look at the compelling evidence of the boundless benefits of diversity.¹
There is evidence that diversity drives cultural, economic, and social vitality and innovation. Indeed, decades of research suggest that intolerance hurts our well-being—and that individuals thrive when they are able to tolerate and embrace the diversity of the world.
Research shows that differences do make it harder for people to connect and empathize with each other. Navigating differences can be tough, whether in the classroom, the workplace, or our personal relationships—and yet people all over the world do it every day. It’s a prosocial skill, like empathy or forgiveness, that can be developed over a lifetime with intentionality, knowledge, and practice. In diverse societies, cultivating our ability to forge relationships across differences can actually increase our well-being.
Social connections are one of the single biggest predictors of personal well-being, and there is some evidence that making your network of connections rich and diverse can also contribute to health, success, and happiness.
Economic diversity matters as well. Several studies suggest that contact across social classes seems to influence well-being and prosocial behaviors like gratitude and generosity. This research suggests it’s bad for everyone’s well-being when the rich don’t have contact with the poor, or the poor with the middle class.
Prejudice hurts the health of both targets and (to a different degree) perpetrators. The targets of prejudice experience the well-documented “weathering effect” on their physical and mental health. On the other side, many studies suggest that people who discriminate are at much greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, interracial interactions needn’t be stressful. In many of the same studies, low-prejudice people respond to interracial interactions in ways that are happy and healthy.
One 2014 study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that people who play more diverse social roles may be better able to perceive and decode nonverbal cues in a variety of social settings. In other words, this result suggests, social and emotional intelligence rises as we interact with more kinds of people.
Finally, separation fuels intergroup discrimination, conflict, and violence—while embracing diversity seems to reduce it. People who live in homogenous communities, who have few opportunities for contact with outside groups, tend to resist diversity, which in turn seems to negatively affect their well-being.
¹ Source: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/diversity/