Recognizing the Multifaceted Nature of Diversity – Tips for CDPs

Career development practitioners (CDPs) regularly work within a fixed program/service mandate, typically stipulated by the funding source. For many, such a mandate often defines a very specific client group (e.g., immigrants). This approach tends to lump all clients from a particular group into one category, forgetting that diversity is far more complex.
At Life Strategies, we strive to take a broad definition of diversity, looking beyond visual clues (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) to include a multitude of other factors (e.g., sexual orientation, religion, educational background, level of ability, communication style, speed of learning and comprehension). Although we recognize that focusing on one element of diversity can provide targeted initiatives to support the needs of specific groups, it is equally important to ensure assumptions about individuals aren’t made due to their inclusion in the broader group.
For example, a client who is Aboriginal may be impacted by challenges related to that group; however, perhaps the client is also a woman, perhaps an older woman. In that instance, she can likely also identify with challenges related to sexism and ageism. To further complicate the matter, perhaps this particular client doesn’t identify with her Aboriginal culture – perhaps she’s worked outside of Canada for the past 10 years and is just returning to the Canadian workforce. Consequently, a program focussed on supporting Aboriginal clients may not fit her particular circumstances. Perhaps something targeted to repatriates would be a better fit.
As the case above illustrates, individuals are multifaceted; it would be easy to make assumptions about this client if she was only considered as Aboriginal. CDPs can better serve their clients if they recognize and appreciate a broader definition of diversity. We recommend taking a culturally-curious approach; don’t assume what you know about a specific group applies to an individual member of that group. Get to know your client; take time to listen to his/her story.
Originally posted November 16, 2012 by Cassie Saunders

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