Many firms have the right discussions and express all the right intents around Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), but do we really understand what it means and do we fully grasp the required mindset? Can we do so unless we put ourselves in each other’s shoes?
I believe that the answer lies not in policies or processes but in how we think as individuals.
Creating an inclusive environment
Baringa parents feel included because our firm has taken positive and practical steps to embrace and appreciate families, with many events open to other halves and children. Most people feel comfortable talking about their families and project deadlines in the same breath.
To make people feel included, organisations need to proactively create an environment where all employees, and everyone they are seeking to attract feels welcomed, included and that they belong.
Respect and welcome for others
Another focus should be on making people feel welcome and that they matter by caring about things that matter to them. This could range from the pronunciation of their name to their pattern of work and much more.
Names are a bug bear of mine! They are integral to our identity yet, not always respected. I’ve had people “conveniently” shorten my surname on a call. Previously, I would grudgingly accept this, but now, I say, “please try”. Yes, it may sound complex, feel intimidating and you may not want to get it wrong, but I am happy to teach you. If you try, you learn something new, stand a better chance of getting it right next time and most importantly, I feel acknowledged. I won’t judge you for trying!
Expanding your view of the world
We often judge people based on how we would do things ourselves (even I can be guilty!). However, what if we put ourselves in each other’s shoes?
I can relate to race and gender because I am a brown skinned woman, but this point extends to other aspects of diversity such as thought and expression.
My thought processes are much quicker than my mouth can express; and my mother tongue, Yoruba, is often fast paced. When I was less experienced, I would speak quickly all the time. Now, someone may well have looked past any substance I had and decided not hire me because, “she spoke too quickly” but if they understood my background they might draw a different conclusion.
Similarly, if you understood that an individual may not make or hold eye contact or perhaps openly challenge you because it is a cultural “taboo”, then you might judge the situation differently.
Finally, as a multi-ethnic woman married to a man who is very different to me, I’ve learned that there is beauty in difference and strength in diversity.
We all bring something different and unique to bear and I’ve learned not to be threatened by difference but to relish and embrace it.
Similarly, in business, we must seek to understand what makes each of us unique, recognising, appreciating, embracing and celebrating it.
Yes, we can introduce policies and processes but D&I starts in our thinking
Can we begin to show curiosity for (and learn about) other cultures, practices, interests, languages, religions, lifestyles, personal lives, socio-economic backgrounds, thought processes, character traits, physical traits, etc?
- how curious am I?
- what tone do I set?
- what environment do I create?
- how socially and culturally intelligent am I?
- What is the one thing I will begin to do differently today?