Editor’s note: In August, PRSA will celebrate PR Diversity Month by focusing on the diverse communities, people and practices that comprise the public relations profession. We will also be providing advice and insight on how to build a better PR industry through diversity and inclusion. We’ve invited PR practitioners and thought leaders to offer their insights on various diversity and inclusion topics important to the PR profession. Follow the series and join the discussion by using the hashtag #PRDiversity. For more information on Diversity Month activities visit the Diversity Month section of the PRSA site.
“We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. And while it may not be easy to get past the things we do not understand, I want to prove that it is possible if we can do it together,” stated Caitlyn Jenner as she accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
She is in fact correct—we’re all different. Could you begin to imagine life in a world where everyone looked the same, had similar thoughts, acted the same way? The reality is, we live in a society where diversity exists, and while it may be easiest to create a distance from that which is different from oneself, I encourage you to embrace diversity. Each one of us is part of something greater, a family, an organization, a corporation, etc. When internal shifts begin to occur in our ideologies, then naturally we should expect that institutions and businesses would follow.
When I recently asked a group of highly respected professionals about how each of us could contribute to a more inclusive work environment, Naomi T. Johnson, a public relations professional stated, “It is important to build relationships with other professionals from diverse backgrounds. There is no such thing as a stand-alone job.” When we foster a work environment that embraces different perspectives and encourages collaboration, it will yield positive business results.
Artesia Mayor Miguel Canales, who leads a city with diverse businesses, and over 20,000 residents, recently stated there were over 37 languages spoken in the city, over 18 places of worship, and people from various ethnic backgrounds. In order for him to be an effective city leader he understood the importance of ‘learning, respecting and appreciating the people’ he represents.
When discussing the importance and value of diversity, Steve Durham, a successful business owner stated, “Diversity is an important topic to address as we move towards a more global economy. It makes good social and financial business sense to address the issue of diversity head on.” “Everyone has a unique story and it is worth sharing as we are the total sum of our experiences,” he added.
While we all have unique stories, how often do we share them? Do we retreat, and try to assimilate into a larger culture in fear of standing out or being rejected? Sharing our authentic selves to others takes a lot of courage. However, what if our mindsets shifted to embrace people’s authenticity and their differences? I would challenge you to believe that this shift could contribute to helping us create a more accepting social model for our country, and beyond.
In the challenge of shifting our mindset to embrace diversity and thus, encouraging one another to share our authentic self, I will step forward and lead in the charge.
I’m an olive skin-tone Latina woman who grew up in Southern CA with two hard working parents, and three siblings.
Growing up I had long black hair, which my mother loved splitting with a comb right down the middle, and braiding each side. I have vivid memories of sitting on a color-lined carpet in a classroom, and having classmates run behind me, yank each side of the braids and yell, “Pippy Longstocking! Fly! Fly!” Although now as an adult, I find the whole experience hilarious, as a kid, I would find myself running outside the classroom to cry. I would share my experiences with my mother, and would plea with her to comb my hair straight. I wanted to assimilate. I did not want to be different. My mother would refuse. For her, braiding her daughter’s hair in two braids was a family tradition shared by the women.
Growing up I only knew one language, and that was Spanish. I remember being teased and yelled at, “This is America! Speak English!” I eventually became proficient in English, and now I’m a proud bilingual American. I have the capacity to communicate with thousands more people than I could have if I were only monolingual. Once I learned English, I refused to speak Spanish. Again, I wanted to assimilate, and did not want to be different. My parents refused. They wanted their children to be proud of both their backgrounds, and thus encouraged us to be bilingual.
Although these two personal experiences may resonate with some, it may not with all, and that difference in itself is reflective of diversity. In an increasingly changing world, I challenge each of us to embrace diversity, step forward in our authentic selves, and have the courage to share who we are with one another.
As Caitlyn Jenner stated, “We’re all different…it’s a good thing.”
Adriana Galdamez is a Public Affairs Specialist for a Fortune 50 insurance company in Southern CA. She is responsible for managing community relations, executing marketing and grant campaigns, and engaging Agency. Her work has led to unique story placements that advance the brand and showcase community involvement. She is also part of the PRSA Orange County, CA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. You can connect with her on Twitter @SF_AdrianaG.