Pat Bell, chief human resources manager with Water Authority-Cayman, writes about her experience as she worked together with Phil Jackson and Melissa Wolfe on the Leadership Cayman seminar for diversity.
The first task was to try to figure how to narrow down the topic of diversity in Cayman. Diversity is such a broad topic and can mean many different things to different people. After some discussion we also realised that we didn’t want to fall into the trap of thinking of diversity only in terms of nationality/ethnicity. With over 100 different nationalities represented in Cayman, it is easy to just think of diversity as the differences between nationalities and how they again differ from Caymanians. Of course, that is part of the discourse, but it isn’t the whole picture and should not necessarily dominate the discussion on diversity.
We decided to look at four main areas in the local context and how they coloured or impacted diversity in Cayman: education, workplace relationships, youth and human rights.
We began our seminar with a tour of three distinct areas of George Town – Scranton, Rock Hole and Webster’s Estates, which highlighted not only the physical diversity of such a small geographic area but also the diversity in terms of socio/cultural/economic differences of the various enclaves we passed through. A personal observation that has lingered with me is the amount of parking lots and commercial lots, some vacant, that have replaced former residential areas and vegetation in central George Town.
This is perhaps symbolic of an integral part of our struggle as we come to terms with Cayman’s diversity issues; are we able to strike a balance between development and the needs of those who seem to be benefiting the least from it? There are many people who are not able to move away from the areas of parking lots and live in the prettier suburban areas.
We invited a number of guest speakers to talk on their interpretation of whether diversity has had a positive or negative impact on the Cayman Islands relating to their own areas of expertise. We were grateful to have Mrs. Shirley Wahler, chief education officer; Mrs. Glenda Davidowski, learning and development specialist CIMA; Ms. Janette Goodman, human resources director, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; Ms. Marzeta Bodden, marketing executive; Pastor Felix Manzanares, director of youth ministries, Church of God Chapel; and Mr. James Bodden III, social commentator.
Lively discussion ensued and it was obvious to see that this was a subject generating great passion for many class members. Of education, Mrs. Wahler impressed upon us to think of diversity not only in terms the student body but also the difference in teaching methods, curricula, standards and assessment in education and cultural differences among staff. She said that striking the right balance between all of these factors is crucial in the proper education of our children. This line of thinking was carried through to workplace relationships, youth and human rights as each speaker talked of the importance of balance and a thoughtful perspective.
Overall, the seminar was an opportunity for participants to challenge their own presumptions about diversity in the Cayman Islands and their own definitions of diversity itself. We did not give one single definition but instead presented several examples of diversity to stimulate critical thinking. One thing we can be sure of is that change will always happen, new people will enter our lives and time does not stand still. Let us embrace our community with open hearts and minds and think intelligently about the experience of diversity and how we choose to move forward together into an optimistic future.