Updated: Apr 11
Our society is becoming more and more diverse. Yet, we do not always feel and see it. Not least because search engines and social media algorithms are programmed to feed us more of the same. It creates tunnel vision. The lack of diversity reinforces the lack of diversity. In this way, we enhance our “own reality”. Do young female founders of Digital Health startups find it more difficult to find investors because they are more likely to be older white men? In any case, non-diversity often sneaks into our lives that way. That is precisely why the Financial Times uses a bot called She Said He Said, which ensures that the (usually male) journalists allow enough female experts to speak.
Diversity must therefore be more than just an advertisement or an announcement today. It must be translated into the products, the services and all the experiences you provide. Nike and Mattel are prime examples of this. Among other things, Nike has a specific range of products and services for pregnant women, women with PMS, or Muslim women. Mattel has launched Barbies that are gender-neutral, have prosthetics, or are in a wheelchair. Diversity should not only be brought to the attention but also translated into concrete actions. The German parliament had already approved a third gender in 2018. You can now opt for 'various' on birth certificates and other official documents.
Diversity is also essential in healthcare. Language should no longer be a barrier to this. Instant translator devices today allow cheap and efficient ways to embrace language diversity. But diversity goes beyond language, of course. In this way, the Belgian knowledge centre KCI makes recommendations about culture-sensitive care. The book “Cultural diversity in health care” by the Dutchman Prof. dr. Ivan Wolffers, on the other hand, helps to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes. It is no coincidence that the three recommendations of the KCIare also included.
Focus on diversity does lead to stigmatization. Let's try to avoid that. Diversity categories are not a panacea. In some respects, we must not forget that there can be more similarities between a 50-year-old Turkish Muslim woman and a 20-year-old Belgian, bisexual woman than, for example, between two people from the same region. In addition, a focus on diversity can also lead to incorrect use of clichés. That should be avoided as well. Did you know that weightlifting is more popular among women than men? Or did you know that men are the largest growing group of make-up users?
ZorgVoorBeter, a Knowledge Center for Elderly Care in the Netherlands, perhaps puts it best: Diversity revolves around person-oriented care, in which curiosity, self-reflection and openness should be the most critical attitudes of the healthcare staff. You don't have to have a manual 'Dealing with minorities' in your head at all. What you need are respect and empathy. This applies to each healthcare provider. This also applies to each healthcare institution itself. How many healthcare institutions today already have a recurring advisory board with patients? How great is the diversity in these patient councils?
Advisory boards are essential to get out of that tunnel vision and to gain more empathy. Similarly, Modehuis Prada has had an advisory board for diversity and inclusion since February 2019. The additional advantage is that an open mind for diversity is the engine of innovation. Driven by diversity, supermarket Kohl has brought a unique clothing line for people with disabilities into the store. Samsung has developed a digital solution to allow people with autism to work in busy restaurants, while Brazilian beer brand Skol has made a shopping cart for the blind. Beauty brand Sephora is giving make-up classes to transgender people, and Pampers also provides men's toilets with changing tables this year. Marvel's new superhero is a mutant drag queen.
Diversity has to be 'seen' to get out of that tunnel vision. Diversity must be “used” to innovate and make things better. But diversity is crucial to make people feel better. We consider it our task in healthcare to make people healthy and/or happy. This is the Healthusiasm we all have in healthcare. Then let us be consciously engaged in making people feel accepted in all their diversity. Because feeling accepted is the first step to being healthy and happy.