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How do you define diversity? Regardless of how certain groups are characterized or described, every individual that represents one of these groups bring a variety of experiences that can be both positive and negative.

Diversity or the intent to diversify should be about embracing the differences in culture and ideologies that each individual brings to a group or organization and to the workplace. Diversity should promote growth among those members based upon the opinions they have formed that relate to their experiences. While all may not experience the same thing in the same manner, it is through diversity that others learn how to cope, how to interact and how to accept individuals who may be different from themselves.

Diversity should not be imparting personal biases, preconceived notions or stereotypes onto others. Nor should it be about an individual's race, ethnic origin, gender or even their body type. However, personal observation has taught me that some characteristics should be taken into consideration when creating focus groups, advisory boards or committees, depending upon what is being studied. Some examples of how diversity may affect industry:

* The fashion industry may benefit from consulting a diverse panel of individuals of varying races, ethnicities, genders and body types. The notion of "one size fits all" may not necessarily hold true if all persons in the focus group have very few differences in size, shape and height. The concept of fashion is subjective. What looks good to one person may not, to the next.

* The automobile industry may benefit from a focus group to test vehicles that have varying heights and body types as well. The appeal of the vehicle may have nothing to do with gender or race; however, there are certain amenities either gender might like in their personal vehicle based on their daily activities and needs. It would be beneficial to have a diverse group of males and females from different socioeconomic backgrounds to give input on the size of the vehicle, its intended use, drivability and even color. Without a test or focus group including both males and females, the options may be slim.

The workplace exemplifies an arena where diversity can manifest in multiple ways. Diversity is not simply hiring more of one race than another, for example; race may not be the only factor that informs a worker's point of view. And arguments against diversity for its own sake may arise based on Affirmative Action initiatives stating that individuals of different races, gender groups, ethnic origin, etc., should be considered within the applicant pool. The question may not be whether an organization is willing to hire someone from these groups, but if there are even sufficient numbers of applicants in the pool to review. Depending upon the racial and ethnic population in a given geographic area, there may not be enough applicants who would satisfy an equal opportunity policy. Do the applicants, collectively or individually, possess a background that is diverse enough to meet specific criteria for hiring? Detractors of Affirmative Action argue that the initiative emphasizes an individual's demographic profile over her or his ability to meet published qualifications for a job.


While there are more males in the U.S. workforce in general/ they represent a minority in the dental hygiene profession, where the group norm for race is white female.2 In the definition of diversity adopted by the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) 2011 House of Delegates ("an inclusion of varied characteristics, ideas and world views in a community"), no mention is made of race, gender, ethnicity, ability or lack thereof. Is it understood, then, that this inclusion encompasses those from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that together constitute diversity within an organization? How does one determine this? In academia, researchers conduct ethnographies that take on a scientific view of individual cultures. From these studies, perhaps, are derived the conclusions we reach on specific populations--how they behave, how they respond to certain situations, how trends are developed.

Regardless of how certain groups are characterized or described, every individual that represents one of these groups bring a variety of experiences that can be both positive and negative. Either way, growth from having this added knowledge can add value to the experiences of others. Sharing thoughts from each person's view can stimulate further dialogue on diversity and what it actually means to one particular group. Diversity is actually diverse in that one person or group may define it differently based on what best suits the organization.


(1) .U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Household data annual averages 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Available at: cpsaatll.pdf.

(2.) Survey of dental hygienists in the United States: executive summary. American Dental Hygienists' Association, 2009. Available at: pratitioner_Survey_Exec_Sum-mary.pdf.

Faith Y. Miller CDA, RDH, MSEd, is associate professor, Dental Hygiene, School of Allied Health, College of Applied Sciences and Arts at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Ill.

di-ver-si-ty noun \de-var-sa-te, di-

... variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.

di'ver-si'ty [dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-] noun, plural -ties.

1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness.

2. variety; multiformity.

3. a point of difference.

Diversity: An inclusion of varied characteristics, ideas and world views in a community.

Adopted by the 2011 AOHA HOD

By Faith Y. Miller, CDA, RDH, MSEd Member, ADHA Diversity Committee
COPYRIGHT 2012 American Dental Hygienists' Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:diversity
Author:Miller, Faith Y.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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