Creative approaches to embrace diversity

A cafe in the inner-city suburb of Melbourne recently made headlines after introducing a gender surcharge for male customers. One week out of every month, men are charged a premium of 18 per cent more with the gap being donated to women’s services. While the surcharge is not compulsory, to date, none of the cafe’s customers have refused to pay it.

The cafe stipulates three anti-patriarchal house rules, which are clearly advertised on a chalkboard: Seating is prioritised for women, Men are charged a premium, Both genders are respected. Handsome Her cafe co-owner Alex O’Brien (pictured below left) said she wanted to highlight the issue of unequal pay for men and women. “If people aren’t comfortable paying it or if men don’t want to pay it, we’re not going to kick them out the door,” she said. “It’s just a good opportunity to do some good.”

Handsome Her

While Handsome Her’s approach may be contentious, it’s unarguably raised awareness and encouraged debate – important steps in better understanding and embracing diversity.

“It’s just a good opportunity to do some good.”

Diversity provides many benefits, including greater efficiency, problem solving and innovation yet we still struggle with enabling equality, so do we need these drastic measures to deal with diversity? Diversity encompasses many different aspects, and is generally classified into two categories; surface-level or demographic diversity – age, race, gender and ethnicity – and deep-level diversity based on psychological features involving personality traits, values, attitudes, preferences and beliefs. Having an understanding of what diversity entrails is important, but one of the flaws in defining diversity is that it singles out attributes. The key to embracing diversity lies rather in finding commonality and connection not ostracising or alienating others because of differences.

Leading producer of public service advertisements in the United States, the Ad Council, has been raising awareness and inspiring action on diversity issues since 1942. The Ad Council has created iconic, inspiring call-to-action campaigns on issues ranging from sexual assault prevention, drunk driving and food wastage to autism.

The Ad Council created the Love Has No Labels campaign, which focused on addressing unintentional discrimination or implicit (unconscious) bias. Implicit bias influences how we treat people and how we interact with each other.

“98% of thinking is done in our subconscious mind”

The Council says that to end bias, we need to become aware of it. Then we need to do everything within our power to stop it in ourselves, others, and institutions. In 2015, on Valentine’s Day, the Council launched a public Love Has No Labels campaign to help educate people about bias. Since it was posted two years ago, the video has had more than 58.5 million views.

The latest iteration of the award-winning Love Has No Labels campaign is “Fans of Love”, which puts a new spin on the kiss cam, turning it into a symbol for unbiased love. The campaign was filmed at the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando in January – a particularly significant location given the mass shooting at the LGBT Pulse club in the city in 2016. The film was released again around Valentine’s Day this year. As families, friends, and couples of different races, religions, genders, sexualities, ages and abilities appear, fans cheer for love in all its forms.

Another organisation focused on raising awareness of diversity and inclusion, is Dialogue Social Enterprise. Founded by Dr. Andreas Heinecke in 1988, the enterprise, which started as Dialogue in the Dark in Germany, is now an international network with presence in more than 41 countries. More than nine million visitors have gone through an experience in the Dark and thousands of blind guides and facilitators find employment through exhibitions and workshops.

Dialogue Social Enterprise’s mission is to facilitate social inclusion of disabled, disadvantaged and elderly people. Their goals are to raise awareness about the contribution to society by people with disability and elderly people, leading to an inclusive behaviour and to improve the social and economic condition of handicapped people, especially blind, visually and hearing impaired people.

To achieve those goals the group operate exhibitions, workshops, and events worldwide which include Dialogue in the Dark, Dialogue in Silence and Dialogue with Time. Andreas Heinecke remains the driving innovator for new concepts and exhibitions aimed at overcoming stereotype mindsets by breaking communication barriers.

Diverse attributes are valuable resources and exposure to different or opposing perspectives encourages exploration of issues and enables a deeper understanding of problems as well as providing alternative solutions. The more opportunity we have to raise awareness and understanding, the more chance we have of exploiting and leveraging all the benefits that come with diversity.


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