Ways to Fight for Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
By Michelle Campos, Project Coordinator, Fall 2020
Having spent a majority of my free time online during my socially distant summer, my days intertwined with social media and the news. It amazed me that so many companies were unaware of their implicit contributions to a divisive world, but I was not surprised. As an individual whose many identities have been thrown into “controversial” discussions on society and politics, I have formed some insights. Based on the mistakes I have seen, here are some ways that you can help diversify the workplace and ensure it is a welcoming environment.
Ditch the quotas. Last year, I attended a talk by Renetta McCann, Chief Inclusion Experience Officer at Publicis Groupe. She said a phrase that I could not have agreed with more: “Representation is not inclusivity.” By committing to hiring a specific number of candidates from a minority group, you are not viewing them as a potential asset to your team. Instead, you are viewing them as a protective shield. It should not take quotas to hire underrepresented individuals but rather an absence of bias in the hiring process and the workplace. A company that exudes a welcoming environment will find that a diverse array of applicants will be more eager to work within its culture.
Understand intersectionality. Many people are confused when I explain to them that a woman-owned business does not necessarily equate all-inclusive diversity. A homogenous staff is still going to lack aspects of inclusivity regardless of gender. I say this because I often find that my experience as a woman of color is different than that of my white colleagues. Thus, I may have a perspective that is “out the norm” in a particular setting. It is important to understand the complexities of people’s backgrounds and identities. Whether it be their race/ethnicity, religion, gender identity, national origin, sexuality or socioeconomic background, they all combine to provide us with unique experiences that provide divergent ideas.
Create and respect boundaries. At the height of the BLM Movement, one of the protests that I attended in solidarity included a speech from a Black woman who thanked my local community for standing up for what was right. Out of nowhere, a young white man began to speak over her. While the young man only wanted to add on to what she was saying, it crossed an important boundary. Allies should use their privileges to amplify minority voices, not to talk over them. In situations where you are a guest of someone’s culture, identity and livelihood, actions must be cautious and considerate. There may be underlying biases or notions that you have that you may not be aware of. Instead of being reactive, listen and learn to continue your growth.
Accept that you do not have the answers. A meeting room full of the majority will not fully understand the experiences of the minority. That’s why it is important to include members of underrepresented groups in discussions. As a Latina, I have come across the misconception that I am somehow expected to understand the struggles of other minority groups. While I do educate myself and could refer to stories my Black and Asian peers have shared with me, it is not my place to represent them. Seek out knowledge through credible books and documentaries that were written by minorities and learn what you can. Never force an individual to express their opinion if they do not feel comfortable; make a safe space for them to be open on their own. Educating oneself takes time. It is better to take your time than to rush and be misguided.
Do not expect applause for the bare minimum. A joke that my Queer friends and I like to make is that every company is going to change their profile picture to include a rainbow on June 1. It happens every year, and it is just one form of performative activism that benefits the company more than it does the group. Once July starts, the rainbows drift away, and it is as though nothing happened. It is always appreciated when large companies display their allyship, but it must come from a place of genuineness. There is more to being an ally than posting on social media. From black squares to employee spotlights during a Heritage Month, any message that a company releases must be on brand and on strategy. So, is your strategy to jump on the bandwagon of justice, or is it to remind the world that you have cared for much longer than the headlines have existed?
Diversity and inclusion cannot be forced through a single initiative or plan; it is a commitment to underrepresented groups on behalf of a company. It involves continuous learning and discussion, as well as dissolving prejudices and bias that have accumulated for decades. There will be mistakes along the way, but it is a group effort that we must all devoutly be a part of.