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Inclusion and Diversity

A wise teacher told me once never to put my daughter at a hurdle she could not jump. Of course the hurdle might be difficult to jump and she might need to do some training to jump it, but make sure that it is a realistic possibility.  Find the things she is good at and set her up for success. Let her use her individual and unique strengths. Don’t be guided by what is good for everyone else. Be careful where you let her fail. Believing this to be good advice, I try to proactively seek hurdles where she can use her strengths and achieve results and occasionally by-pass hurdles which are best left for other children (maybe my other daughter) to try to jump.

It is hard though not to be sucked in to the peer pressure of parents around me. Maybe it is the circles I mix in but the pressure for our children to perform academically at the expense of everything else is overwhelming.  A  friend of mine with young children asked me if she should  pay  for extra tuition  to get her children into “best” senior school in the area?  Her current parent peers are all supposedly paying for extra tuition.  This question disappointed me on many levels. Do we only have one measure of success – our children have to be the best? Is the “best” school in the area best for my individual child? We all have strengths regardless of our age, gender or background that should be harnessed, nurtured and encouraged.  Recognising those strengths is perhaps the most important role of a parent. Whatever happened to variety being the spice of life?

I was at my daughter’s ice skating club this weekend and saw one of the children really upset off the ice talking with her mother. As you can imagine many injuries occur with this sport, so once her daughter was back on the ice I asked if she was ok. The mother answered “Oh yes she is just upset as I may stop her ice skating as she is not improving and she will never make it to the top!” Again she wanted her daughter to be the best and that was her only measure of success it seems. In fact her daughter is a happy, friendly child who connects easily with others – she may not be a top skater, but she is the top networker on the ice rink and that’s a skill that will be very valuable later on.  I really wish we could relax, appreciate and enjoy each other’s strengths much more -- especially in our children.

A few weeks ago I was in Turkey with around 200 colleagues from our “Emerging Theatre” – Middle East, Turkey, South Africa, Russian and African regions. I felt truly energised being surrounded by such a diverse group of people. Learning about the different cultures, experience, viewpoints and approaches but knowing we were all on the same team was exciting and added a new dimension to my day job. It was visibly clear we needed more women in the room but those present were highly valued and encouraged – a great environment!  The recognition of the delights of such diversity should be encouraged in our childhood and then maybe we will be more appreciative in adulthood?

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