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Crisis Centre

Module 3: Diversity

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  1. Layers of identities
  2. The mechanics of oppression and privilege
  3. Culture
  4. Managing cultural differences

Layers of identities (1)

Our social identities (race, gender, religion, age, ability, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, family status, sex, etc.) are important aspects of ourselves that shape our experiences, attitudes and behaviours. These identities can be part of privileged and/or oppressed groups. Sometimes these identities allow us to enjoy power and privilege that other groups may not enjoy.

It is important to recognize our identities and how they may impact our interaction with others.

Take some time to consider what privileges you may have and how these might impact your interaction with someone from a different culture than yours.

The mechanics of oppression and privilege (1)

Self-knowledge of our beliefs and perspectives can help us develop understanding of others' perspectives and enable us to interact more effectively. Self-exploration is central to our growth as individuals and in our relationships with others.

The following reflective questions can helps us recognize our biases and understand power and privilege.

  • Selected information: When you receive information about a group, do you ask where it comes from? Do you ever generalize information about another group?
  • Biases: Do you think about your reactions to groups of people? Do you assess how and why you have biases?
  • Stereotypes: Do you ever react to strangers according to what you have heard from others?
  • Prejudice: In what ways do you condone prejudice? How do you choose  what to confront and what to let pass?
  • Discrimination: What decisions are made in your group that perpetuate forms of discrimination? What happens when you see other groups do the same thing?
  • Isms (forms of discrimination, e.g., ageism, racism): How much do you question the norms of the group? Whom do the norms benefit? Who gets disadvantaged? Who gets oppressed?

Culture (1)

Culture influences virtually every aspect of life, from one's general perspective or outlook on the world to the understanding of what constitutes socially acceptable behaviour.

Culture can be defined broadly as "shared motives, values, beliefs, identities and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives that are transmitted across generations." (2)

What part does the understanding of culture play in the role of a mentor-mentee relationship?

Both mentor and mentee bring to their relationship values and assumptions that are culturally based. By understanding the influence of culture on attitudes, expectations and behaviours, mentors and mentees may increase their cultural awareness and improve intercultural mentoring practices.

Managing cultural differences (1)

Be aware of (different):
  • Approaches to completing tasks
  • Approaches to knowing
  • Attitudes towards conflict
  • Attitudes towards disclosure
  • Boundaries
  • Communication styles
  • Decision-making styles
  • Interactions
  • Personal space
(1) UOIT Diversity office
(2) House, R. J., Hanges, P., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P., and Gupta, V. (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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