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Expanding Diversity Beyond the City Limits

“How can we bring more diversity to our neck of the woods?”

Over the past year and a half, we have seen companies around the United States continue to enhance and grow their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, but are we missing a large population of those impacted by DEI? A lot of focus is put on urban centers where we work, live and play, but is the representation of diversity missing for those in the rural or outlying areas?

For many who call rural areas home, they may not be exposed to the many different racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds that those in the bigger city experience.

As a long-term diversity practitioner, I am often asked, “How can we bring more diversity to our neck of the woods?” First, we must understand what diversity, equity and inclusion is and what is needed to create a truly welcoming and inclusive culture. Some believe that many small, rural cities, townships and villages are made up of a homogeneous group of people who are close-minded and do not welcome others who do not look, talk or act like them. This mindset can be dangerous and derail DEI efforts. Starting with community conversations centered on DEI is a great way to begin the process of enlarging the circle of inclusion and changing outside perceptions. Working together, come up with some strategies and different ways you can change the culture, and outside view, of your rural community.

It’s important to remember that everyone wants to live in a community where they are welcomed, accepted and have a sense of belonging. This includes access to affordable housing.

“Our built environments should mirror the rich tapestry of diversity of all our communities. As developers or land planners, our work should focus on embracing equity and inclusion, ensuring there is affordable housing also available in rural areas,” said Gina Pons-Schultz, vice president of operations at T.A. Forsberg Inc. “Everybody deserves a place to call home, where they can live, celebrate and embrace their differences.”

Whether you are an urban dweller or live in a rural area, our top priority should be to strive for open-mindedness, checking our biases and welcoming others no matter where they are on their journey. No matter where we live, let’s create communities where everyone can celebrate their differences, prosper, grow and succeed.

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