(if it doesn’t, it should)
When you hear the word ‘inclusion’, how do you feel?
Maybe you feel like a deer in the headlights – afraid to move and you don’t know where to go.
What if I say the wrong thing? Maybe it’s better to say nothing and pretend everything’s fine.
I treat everyone the same and not think about it.
I’m nice to everyone.
Is this really going to help anyone?
Inclusion matters because Canada is diverse.
Consider the diversity of Canadians:
- 22.3% of Canadians are a visible minority
- 16% of Canadian families are single parent
- 4.9% of Canadians are Indigenous
- 51% of Canadians are female
- 49% of Canadians are male
- 13% of Canadians identify as LGBTQ (Foundation Jasmin Roy, 2017)
- 22% of Canadians have at least one disability
- There are 250 ethnic origins present in Canada
(Statistics Canada, 2016 Census)
Diversity is present in our race, ethnicity, colour, age, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, education level, socio-economic status, family status, mobility, privilege and a whole range of other factors.
Think about your own identity – who are you?
- How would you describe your ethnic and racial background?
- Which aspects are the most important to your identity?
- Which aspects are the least important to your identity?
- Where do you have privilege and where do you not?
- What role does privilege play in your actions, reactions, and attitudes?
It’s easy to become defensive, or ignore these aspects, but I believe we all need to learn how these words affect us and impact our lives. We need to talk productively and collectively.
Diverse, but not inclusive
Being diverse is not enough. Your workplace may be diverse – people coming together with different beliefs, lifestyles, races, religions, and values – yet the workplace still operates the same as it always has.
You might hear (or say) phrases like ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’, or ‘it’s how we do things’, or ‘it’s the way it is’. What this means is that the expectation is that difference needs to integrate – people are forced to change and adapt so someone or a company can stay the same.
If you can stay the same and others have to change, this is not inclusion.
Inclusion happens when all people can thrive. This means changing and evolving procedures, policies, and practices. It means stopping the celebration of that one person who made it despite all the barriers and roadblocks. It means identifying and dismantling those barriers and roadblocks that make it hard —or impossible — for some people to thrive and be successful. Inclusion means addressing power and privilege. Inclusion means everyone has opportunity.
Don’t place the burden on others to change so that everything can stay the same.
If you’re hiring diversity but not addressing inclusion, it’s not going to work!
What if you thought about inclusion as a sense of belonging? What if each person was valued and respected as an individual?
That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
An inclusive and welcoming community embraces human differences, sees them as strengths, and offers respect in both words and actions for all people.
It’s not insurmountable. It’s a lifelong journey of exploration, learning and discovery. It’s about understanding experiences and seeing people as individual humans being.
It starts with you.
Your inclusive mindset is:
What’s holding you back? Are you afraid of saying the wrong thing, upsetting someone, worried that it feels insurmountable and you don’t know where to start?
You are what you think
I’m biased…and so are you. We all are – whether you chose to accept it or not. When we meet someone new, we unconsciously size them up. It happens in a fraction of a millisecond. It’s part of an evolutionary mechanism. First impressions are powerful – even when based on faulty information.
This is not an excuse for bad behaviour – it is the jumping off point for you to be aware that your unconscious mind is powerful and that you need to start minding what’s going on in your mind.
Just admit that you’ve judged someone and formed an impression without even knowing it. I have.
Once you realize that you have biases, you can begin to mind your mind. It doesn’t make you a bad person, or a racist.
It’s not a paradigm of good and bad. It’s learned behaviour – which means we can unlearn it. You’re not bad because you have bias – you’re human! But that doesn’t mean you can get away with it.
Inclusion starts with YOU!
It’s important to surface and unlearn the biases that are standing in the way of more effective interpersonal relationships. It’s also about looking at our systems to see where bias is embedded and creating inequity and systemic discrimination.
It’s time to start a conversation. Consider getting to know someone in your office who you wouldn’t normally connect with. Set up a virtual coffee and have a chat. If you’re not sure what to talk about, there are other options than the weather. How about a conversation about experiences?
Here are 5 things you can do right now to foster inclusion
- Start thinking of people as individuals
- Monitor yourself – be mindful of your mind
- Think about your identity and how it shapes you
- Keep a journal – write down your experiences and reflect on them
- Talk with others – talk with someone who has a different worldview
Your beliefs, values and assumptions may get in your way, but that doesn’t mean you need to abandon everything and start again. Instead, consider the first step as becoming more aware of your beliefs and the biases that shape your worldview. Think about them the next time you encounter someone and let’s work to create a welcoming community that is diverse and inclusive for everyone.
Foundation Jasmin Roy. (2017). LGBT+ realities survey. Retrieved from here.
Statistics Canada. (2017). New data on disability in Canada, 2017. Retrieved from here.
Statistics Canada. (2016). 2016 Census. Retrieved from here.