Diversity: Where do you stand?
Take a look around, and you’ll see diversity across Virginia. Diversity exists not only in the state’s terrain, which offers mountains, beaches, lakes and more, but also in the people who live throughout Virginia and the types of jobs and companies the commonwealth has to offer.
In my role as a recruiter, aided by extensive travel in the United States and abroad, I have had the opportunity and privilege to interact with people from diverse backgrounds (education, cultural, socioeconomic, religion, etc.). I tend to ask a lot of questions to better understand the differences among the diverse, as well as to find common ground. I won’t claim to be the most open-minded person. However, based on my experiences in life, I think I am more open-minded than many.
I am bringing this to your attention because I believe the more open you are to diversity in your life on all fronts (the people in your life, the places where you socialize and travel, etc.), the more opportunities you will have professionally — and personally, too.
I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at an organization’s national convention in August about tapping into your entrepreneurial skill set within the accounting profession. While at the convention, I attended some panel discussions myself. I found it eye-opening when several women from a specific cultural background mentioned that they were raised to respect their elders and authority. And what I gathered as well was that maybe at times they didn’t think it was appropriate to speak up or make suggestions in a group setting — possibly because they were women. As a result, one woman told a story whereby one of her peers spoke up before she did at a meeting with a similar suggestion to hers and wound up getting credit for the idea.
When I thought about the comments and challenges I heard from these women, I thought to myself how I didn’t face some of those same challenges. At the same time, I am sure I have faced challenges that they didn’t face.
I also chuckled to myself when I thought about that woman’s reluctance to speak up. I’m not sure if it’s from cultural or environmental factors — or just genetics and my personality — but I was encouraged to speak up. I also learned early on to challenge ideas and situations instead of taking things at face value. This trait did help me very early on in my career as an auditor and certainly has helped me as a recruiter and being self-employed.
My takeaway — and hopefully the women I met at the conference took away something similar — is that you have to understand where you come from and where you have been to know how to get to where you want to go.
Although surrounding yourself with like-minded people may provide comfort in your personal life, this could work against you and limit you in the workplace.
Hopefully you are satisfied where you are in today’s business world. Although from the telephone calls and emails I receive, many people seem to be frustrated with their situation for many different reasons. However, when I make suggestions about how to go about and make changes or come up with a strategy to make changes, I seem to get a lot of resistance. So what can you do to diversify your options?
I could come up with a long list of ideas as to how to add diversity to your life and get out of your comfort zone if that is hard for you to do. I am not saying you need to totally revamp your life; however, what you may uncover and discover may be just what you need. And if I take my own advice, I, too, need to continue to expand the diversity in my life, including exploring and standing in the many great diverse areas of Virginia!
Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA is an independent recruiter who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, in an area very close to the Virginia border. She has lived and worked in Virginia and socializes and networks there regularly. She can be reached at [email protected] or at (301) 767-0670.