Friday 11 June 2021

Blogjune Day 11 - more on labels and diversity

In my last post, I reflected on the strengths and flaws of the Own Voices label in identifying diverse works created by those from the same diverse backgrounds.

We also talk quite a bit about diversity in the library sector - but I'm not so sure that we've reached a point where it's necessarily a meaningful and inclusive conversation.

In my mind, diversity is another catch-all term, which both defines and others all that is not the dominant and privileged status, ie white, non-Indigenous, male, heterosexual, cis-gendered, neurotypical, without disability, and so on. There's the danger that if we're not careful, we simply define our workforce into 'diverse' and 'not diverse', which runs the risk of excluding those that need more careful consideration.

For example, in recent years, I've seen a lot of resources put into recruiting, embedding and supporting Indigenous people in the workforce - which absolutely is important work. But I've rarely seen similar affirmative measures created for other minority demographics.

At the same time, given that the Australian librarian workforce is made up of 86% of women, you could be forgiven for thinking that gender diversity isn't an issue. That is, until you realise that there is still a wage gap where men are more representative in the higher income brackets. Whether this is because more men are on a higher wage, or more women are working part-time or casual, it still amounts to the fact that there are gender considerations that go beyond simple diversity statistics. Equity is also important.

Even sub-categories of diversity are problematic. The one that I always bring up is 'culturally and linguistically diverse' (or CALD), which in Australia is defined based on which country you were born in, and which language you speak at home. It's a measure that's left over from the days of the White Australia policy, and excludes many second- and third-generation migrants living in Australia, such as myself.

Other catch-all phrases, such as ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander), BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic - often used in the UK), BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color - often used in the US), and FNPOC (First Nations and People of Colour - increasingly used here in Australia), all serve a purpose in defining and drawing attention to underrepresented people, but we do need to avoid the temptation of stopping at that level.

I recently read a piece that criticised the 'Stop Asian Hate' campaign, because it focused too much on East Asian hate, and didn't do enough to create awareness on the experiences of South Asians who were subjected to Islamaphobic attacks.

These are all just examples, but they highlight the fact that words matter, and detail is important.

Ultimately, diversity is just a measure - an indication of how well you are representative of your community. Just as important, if not more so, is considering equity and inclusion. You may have the diversity statistics, but without implementing equity and inclusion measures, many of the existing systemic power imbalances will remain.

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