By Esther Barfoot

Okay, so even though the movements and communities I work in, are working towards a better future, they aren’t very diverse. Even in our climate movement in the super diverse city of Rotterdam, with at least 175 nationalities. So, I started asking myself: how do we invite more diversity into our movement?

I started doing a bit of research, talking to people, googling some stuff, reading. This blogpost is a collection of just a few thoughts and insights I had while doing my little bit of research and writing on this topic. I mainly discovered writing about diversity is not without discomfort. Luckily, diversity expert Verna Myers says: ‘You don’t get comfortable, before you get uncomfortable.’ So, I’ll dive into my discomfort head first.


Discomfort #1: Is diversity in looks a predictor of diversity in perspective? What do I actually mean when I say diversity? I mean we need to include more people of a variety of different colours or cultural backgrounds. But I also mean a variety of ages, sexes, sexual preference, physical conditions (healthy and people with a handicap or illness) or social class/affluency (poorer and better off). What I really want is a variety of different life experiences, so we get a more complete reflection of society in our movement and with that a better understanding of society, how we talk about topics and approach people. And that we have a variety of perspectives at the table when we need to solve a problem. But in how far are differences in physical appearances a predictor of this?

‘You don’t get comfortable, before you get uncomfortable.’

Verna Myers in 'How to overcome your biases?' (TED-Talk)

Photography: Hope McConnell

Discomfort #2: By striving for diversity, I feel like I am singling out people Another uncomfortable fact about striving for diversity, is that by talking about differences in people, I feel I am constantly accentuating these differences. Stadswerker, the employee magazine of the Council of Rotterdam, acknowledges this too. ‘He or she who is looking for differences, can’t help but name these differences and therefore categorise people. Applicants who are an addition to the team because they are female or because they have another cultural background, are also told they are a woman or from another culture.’ I think it is the downside of creating a more diverse movement, team or organisation, but it has to be like that for a while, until we slowly but surely get more diverse groups. But I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

A person looking for differences, can’t help but name these differences

Stadswerker, employee magazine Council of Rotterdam

Photography: Hope McConnell

Discomfort #3: Am I wrong to say diversity? As soon as I started looking into diversity, I was told it was no longer called that. That people now say ‘inclusivity’. Apparently, inclusivity goes further than diversity. Diversity expert Verna Myers says: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.’ That is clear and fine. However, I quite liked to use the word diversity, because it highlights the difference between people and highlights that our movement doesn’t have enough different people. Then I found this definition: ‘Diversity is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. It allows for the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. Inclusion is an organisational effort and practices in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed, and equally treated.’ That is clear. I can work with that.