In 2018, diversity and inclusion continue to act as trigger words for companies. While many know contextually what the words mean, others are completely baffled when attempting to put diversity and inclusion into practice. At the 2018 Women’s Leadership Forum, AppNexus, a Xandr company, brought together some D&I thought leaders to discuss the ways in which both companies and individuals can be proactive and change the landscape of business.
One of the common misconceptions surrounding diversity and inclusion is that it is achieved simply by bringing diverse individuals into a space and calling it D&I. Getting this far is only the tip of the iceberg – there’s much more to be done after that. It’s great to seek out diverse candidates and include them in the company culture. But what happens next? How does one go further in creating a space that truly embraces differences?
During the How to Turn Action Into Lasting Change panel, Brittney Cooper, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, says diversity and inclusion is much more than sprinkling some color into the office. We should be able to bring our emotions into the workplace, she says. As a black woman, she moves through the workplace differently than her white male and female counterparts. True diversity and inclusion doesn’t just make room for people of color, it allows them to feel a sense of safety in their place of work. Your place of work should not induce trauma for people who are trying to help you meet your bottom line, says Professor Cooper.
A word that is often left out of the inclusion conversation is intersectionality. This word scares companies, because it challenges the idea that just filling a quota is enough. It challenges companies to make changes that might shake the traditional infrastructure. In reality, intersectionality can only grow and enhance the workplace making sure that diverse voices are not only at the table, but feel supported enough to speak up and speak out. Intersectionality is sharing power with diverse groups of people, says Professor Cooper. Through the sharing of ideas and experiences, diversity and inclusion becomes a natural and integral part of the company culture.
While creating and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives may seem daunting for companies, it doesn’t take much to implement small changes into the daily culture that will make everyone feel completely welcome in the workplace.
Support and Amplify All Voices at the Table
Offering people a seat at the table doesn’t automatically imply everyone has the same power to contribute. It’s important to listen to everyone who speaks and truly receive what they are saying. It’s easy to dismiss someone who is challenging the status quo, but that idea can also be the catalyst that increases your bottom line the next quarter. Part of implementing diversity and inclusion means taking that extra step to level the playing field and giving everyone an equal opportunity.
Acknowledge Your Privilege
Acknowledging your privilege can feel intimidating, especially in the current political climate; however, doing so can help you learn how to use it for good. This doesn’t mean pretending to know all of the answers, but knowing when to simply listen and support your colleagues. It means being an ally and using your voice to advocate for those who are often overlooked or interrupted.
Everyone moves through the world differently, which means current events and tragedies affect everyone differently. Employees should feel that their workplace is a safe space to share their experiences and even be able to have respectful discourse. This doesn’t mean every single person has to agree with one another, but practicing empathy allows members of the team to try to understand one another.
Professor Cooper says, “Anyway that we can, in our corporate spaces, make space for folks emotions, that is what we mean when we say the work of diversity and inclusion.” True diversity and inclusion means allowing employees to bring their whole selves to the table. This change doesn’t happen overnight. However, by taking a moment to listen and learn from the members of your team, prolific change will follow.
By Alison Williams
Workplace inclusion is not a static, one-off act of service. It’s an ever-evolving experience that requires the contribution of every employee — regardless of their level of seniority in the organization — to make each other feel included.
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