Article 3

2023-02-08 Stefano Basaglia

Coexisting with Diversity, between Conflict and Balance

There is a common stereotype that views diversity management as associated with the ideal of an “urban” business, in which there are many types of diversity, but represented in a way that tends to be monolithic by different people. Yet it is good to recall that everyone embodies multiple diversities at the same time, and their management must not be limited to the mere compilation of a checklist.


Public and media discourse relating to diversity and its management tends to favor an urban context populated by large-scale enterprises that operate in “fashionable” sectors such as technological and creative industries that have glass and cement offices and are oriented towards “smart” working. There is a film that allows us to go beyond this depiction, that seems to come from a brochure. It is entitled “God’s Own Country,” the first work of the English director Francis Lee, that was released in 2017 and has recently been included in Mubi’s art film program. The film does not speak directly of diversity management, but brings attention to some themes that are of interest for this column. In particular, the film shows how diversity is experienced in a rural context, and thus far from the usual situation of an affluent metropolis, with debates on talent and access to management roles, STEM disciplines, and so on.


The film is set in on an English farm. So we go back to “basics,” to physical, material work that follows the rhythm of nature and can only be “smart” if nature allows it. The film shows how diversities behave and meet/clash (there is no discussion of quotas, representation, policies, practices, etc.). Those who live and work on the family farm are Johnny Saxby (the protagonist), Martin Saxby (Johnny’s father), and Deirdre Saxby (the paternal grandmother): an interaction between three generations. Johnny’s father gets sick, becomes disabled, and the management of the farm is left to the son. The relationship between Johnny and his father is conflictual, a classic conflict between different generations, with different ways of viewing work and life. Johnny is unable to manage the farm by himself, and thus decides to hire a new person, Gheorghe, originally from Romania. At the beginning, the relationship between Johnny and Gheorghe is also conflictual, with Johnny “having fun” calling Gheorghe a “gypsy”; very soon, however, the conflict is transformed into physical attraction and the two fall in love.


This film has a “simple” structure, it is raw and delicate at the same time, but it speaks to us of the intersection between different identities: generations, family roles, health conditions, profession, sexual orientation, and ethnic origin. The film shows not only how different identities coexist in the same person, but also how each of these can be a source of conflicts or misunderstandings at different levels. As we were saying, there is a relationship between different generations with different family roles: the paternal grandmother, one of the few female figures in the film, acts as a bridge between father and son; there is the father who ages, gets sick, becomes disabled, and must hand over the management of his farm to his son; there is the son who has to determine whether he likes to work on the farm. There is a representation of being a farmer in a context that tends to favor the “urban” dimension. In one dialogue between Johnny and a former schoolmate, this representation is evident: he is the one who remained in the countryside, and she the one who went to university and the city. There is the depiction of homosexuality, its acceptance and manifestation. Sexual orientation then overlaps with ethnic origin: Johnny is English, native, while Gheorghe is a foreigner, an immigrant from Romania.


For those who deal with diversity in organizations, this is a film with an important message: there are numerous diversities in each person. It is important to always be aware of those complexities and the need for them to coexist. Be careful not to make diversity management the mere compilation of a checklist of things to do. Despite the initial conflicts and resistance, these different components ultimately find a balance in the film. We hope that this “happy ending” also applies to businesses.