Federal Conference on Diversity: The 10 lenses of cultural identity

When it comes to really fostering diversity at an organization, the old frameworks just don’t cut it anymore. New approaches are needed.

That according to author Mark Williams, who used humor and wit to get his message about the 10 lenses of cultural diversity across at today’s Federal Conference on Diversity.

Demographics – age, gender, race – are just a piece of the pie, he explained. These old frameworks, while still useful for fostering a culture of inclusion, are not enough to really get at the different belief systems one interacts with on a daily basis.

“People share important demographic affiliations, but other dimensions of identity cause them to express the affiliation differently,” Williams said.

His lens approach encompasses not only demographics, but values, beliefs, attitudes and the ideas of time and place to create a more significant and robust framework for understanding diversity in the workplace.

Williams said his “lens” approach encompasses 10 distinctly different styles of dealing with cultural diversity. Everyone uses a bit of each lens to develop his overall view of the world – and these lenses affect what one sees, how one interprets what he sees, and how one make decisions.

  • Assimilationist
  • Colorblind
  • Culturalcenterist
  • elitist
  • integrationist
  • meritocratist
  • multiculturalist
  • seclusionist
  • transcendent
  • victim/caretaker

Williams stressed that each lens has both strengths and weaknesses and exploring each of them can lead to understanding of oneself, which is the first step to facilitating change.

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