How many times have you heard about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the past couple of years? Too many times to count? Same here. And I get it because diversity and inclusion are critically important to ensuring work that is well-rounded. But if we are truly going to ensure diversity and inclusion is part of your organization’s mission, the conversation needs to be elevated.
I know working in communications and marketing we often think about the optics of things more than other industries that aren’t as visually focused. But one thing I think we’re all guilty of is thinking that diversity is limited to physical characteristics such as race or gender. That’s because true diversity and inclusion are much bigger than having a minority present in a company photo. It’s also about the experience of everyone that’s in the photo.
If what we’re trying to achieve with diversity and inclusion is work that is innovative and more thoughtful, we need to look at diversity differently. Rather than thinking about diversity as only what we see on the outside, try to think also about peoples’ experiences as well. And yes, that means you have to do more digging, but it’s worth it. Because how else will you learn that you have a colleague that grew up on a dairy farm in Eastern North Carolina? Or that another colleague completed middle school in Singapore? It’s experiences that shape how people think and in turn brings that diverse thinking to their work.
During the diversity and inclusion session at a recent conference I attended, Charles Weathers, Founder and CEO of the Weathers Group said, “We need more than the presence of difference to really make a difference.” That resonated with me and speaks to how we need to look at diversity and inclusion for it to truly matter.
So, what can you do ensure you’re thinking about diversity differently? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Ask people thoughtful questions and take a genuine interest in their experiences. We’re communicators so we know how to seek insightful information.
- Don’t assume. We’re all guilty of unconscious bias, but we have to make a concerted effort not to assume we have a person figured out because we think they fall within a certain category.
- Don’t hire based on fit. When we consider whether or not someone is a “fit” for our organization we tend to evaluate how similar they are to the people that already work there. That isn’t diversity or inclusion.
- Talk about it. To demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are important in the workplace we have to talk about it and incorporate the practices that help achieve it.
What else comes to mind when you think of diversity and inclusion in your workplace?