Maya Angelou once said, “in diversity there is beauty and there is strength” and I believe this to be true in society and in the workplace. I’ve observed that high performing teams embrace diversity of thought, perspectives, and people. We are all shaped by our unique experiences and these experiences, when leveraged properly, allow teams to thrive.
Now more than in the past, many workplaces are fostering safe spaces for employees to express their concerns around issues of racial injustice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. After the horrific video of the death of George Floyd, many companies stood with the Black community to condemn injustices that black and brown community’s face. Many went a step further to implement internal programs to evaluate policies, culture, and practices.
Being open to dialog and having courageous conversations about equality is not political it’s moral.
I believe as a society, we are taking a step in the right direction although there is still much more work to be done. As Albert Einstein once said, “we must not only learn to tolerate our differences. We must welcome them as the richness and diversity which can lead to true intelligence.”
If you believe diversity, equality, and inclusion are necessary for workplace success, I encourage you to exemplify this in your everyday actions. Regardless of how you personally identify, you can embody character traits that show forth a person who not only tolerates differences but welcomes them.
If you follow me on the blog or social media, you know that I have a fast-paced career in corporate. In addition to my day job as a corporate professional, I serve on the leadership board for two of my company’s diversity groups. I am the chair for our local group responsible for project and program strategy planning and execution, community relations and senior leader engagement.
I am a huge champion of diversity networks (or affinity groups) in every workplace. In my opinion, they provide a safe space for members to connect and share candid conversations, gain support, and grow professionally. When leveraged appropriately, all associates benefit from diversity networks as it also fosters allyship, provides cultural awareness and education, and supports corporate social citizenship.
These leadership roles have helped me to gain a more in-depth understanding of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Serving in this leadership capacity and through connecting with senior leaders, both within my corporation and external, I’ve observed that diverse teams have higher engagement, are more productive, and team members feel more included.
To be clear, when I talk about diversity, it encompasses both inherent diversity and acquired diversity. Inherent diversity includes personal characteristics that one is born with while acquired diversity includes characteristics gained through education, experiences and exposure that makes one unique. Diversity in the workplace also includes diversity of thought, perspectives, and experiences.
If you find yourself asking “what can I do to champion for diversity, equality, and inclusion in my workplace”, here are some practical suggestions.
- Seek understanding by connecting with others.
- Give others the freedom to express themselves.
- Get involved in your companies’ diversity groups. If your company does not have them, start one.
- Check your biases at the door.
- Speak to and about others with respect.
- Avoid engaging in unproductive and hurtful small talk.
- Share ideas that promote an inclusive culture.
- Plan a cultural education day.
- If you have a position of influence (ie. Leadership), leverage your voice to champion equality.
- Ensure there is diverse representation in meetings.
- Hold leadership accountable.
- Don’t settle for talk without action, ask questions in such a way that it challenges the status quo.
Advocating for a diverse and inclusive culture is not just the responsibility of HR. We all have a role to play in ensuring our workplaces reflect the ideals of equality and inclusion.
Leave a comment and let me know how you champion for a diverse and inclusive culture.
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