Monday, October 15, 2007

Diversity in the Mahoning Valley: Appreciation or Conflict?

On Lincoln Avenue this week, I’m talking with Anne McMahon, YSU Management Professor, about Partners for Workplace Diversity, a project she started 12 years ago to create a network of local businesses and organizations who could work together to address diversity issues in the workplace. The network includes YSU, several area banks, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, GM, and other local companies and groups. Along with sharing resources, the group sponsors a series of events every year, including workshops, awards dinners, and cultural events. This year, the events have included programs in disability awareness, treating patients from diverse backgrounds, and a kick-off breakfast. If you’d like more information, contact Anne McMahon.

Partners for Workplace Diversity approaches cultural differences with a focus on appreciation and inclusion, and, as Anne explains in our interview, they try to ensure that people enjoy their events, instead of coming away feeling frustrated, angry, or guilty. That allows people to engage more positively with people who are different from themselves. At the same time, we live in the 4th most segregated community in the U.S., and racial divisions continue to present serious problems here. And these are problems of conflict, economics, and access to opportunity, not problems of tolerance or appreciation.

Partners for Workplace Diversity make a useful start on addressing the divisions that can keep people apart. Their emphasis on the idea that everyone has something valuable to contribute works well to engage audiences in thinking about difference. Unfortunately, diversity is simply not something we can always feel good about – especially in the Mahoning Valley, where our divisions create obstacles for moving ahead.

On another note, it’s pledge week at WYSU. If you appreciate what you hear on the station, whether that’s Lincoln Avenue, Morning Edition, or the great music, I hope you’ll help support us.

No comments: