Leaders must pursue diversity

If we actually want to achieve true diversity, we must begin to think about it in more expansive ways.

by Alia Jeraj

Last week, one of my professors made the profound statement, “Diversity is not about representation. Diversity is about power.” The simplicity and truth of her remark struck me.
Often when we think of diversity, we imagine a room full of people with various colors of skin, no one of which is more or less present than another. We imagine these people represent various genders, sexualities, religions, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities and languages. 
Do we give any thought, however, to the people in charge of this supposedly diverse room?
I grew up in what I always thought of as a fairly diverse school district, one which had a diversity score of .58, .26 points above the Minnesota public school average. That number represents the chance that two randomly selected students will be members of different ethnic groups. 
Nowhere, however, does the diversity score account for teachers, staff, administrators or board members who hold 
positions of power within the system.
Though my peers and I represented a fairly diverse group of students, can a school with an overwhelmingly white staff population be considered truly diverse? 
If our goal in creating and maintaining diverse communities is to create a more equitable world, we must look beyond mere numbers. We must look not only at whom a system represents, but also at whom it empowers. 
Diversity is not about representation. It’s about power. To build a truly diverse community, we need to foster diversity in both the general 
population and among those in positions of authority.
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].