Why having “diversity” in your workplace is not enough when you are not inclusive
During my formation as a Latina-female scientist, I have navigated the academic system with wonderful opportunities that have let me become the person that I am today. Sadly, I have also encounter uncomfortable situations when I have felt like a token or the event did not let me feel like an equal to others. This kind of situations happen even in the most diversified places because diversity is not the same as inclusivity, but both of these should be included in our workplace goals. So…what is the difference between diversity and inclusivity?
In simple terms, diversity is who/what is involved in the conversation versus inclusivity, which is how we include these topics/issues/people. Your workplace could have people from all over the world with different backgrounds, skin color, languages, age, gender, religion, disabilities, education, and economic status and still not be a safe place for all these groups. That is when inclusivity comes to the equation. The problem is that integrating diversity and inclusivity to the workforce has been a difficult task historically.
Through multiple conferences, reading, blog and documentaries, I have a list of questions that we can ask ourselves to at least try to be better at it. I clarify I am not the author of these, and these will not completely solve our “diversity and inclusivity” issues in our work. Still, I think that it could be helpful guidance.
A. Do I understand the social context of the institution that I work in?
-What can I do to be accountable for diversity and inclusion issues in this social context?
-Is my workplace actively including minorities groups and taking their input into consideration?
-Do the norms/policies of my work area include minorities groups?
-Is this workplace evaluating people for their abilities instead of their limitations?
B. What are the challenges that have been experienced in your work creating inclusive spaces?
-Do I am educating myself enough on these issues?
-How to engage/be an ally to groups that are experiencing a solo status?
-How to stop segregation/exclusion in the work area?
-How to be more perceptive on microaggression issues?
-How to deal with microaggression and stigmatization?
-How to properly speak out when a situation is increasing exclusion?
C. How to create/find safe places?
-How to signal that your area a safe space to talk?
-How to promote an environment that starts talking about these issues?
-Is my vocabulary/ way of communication inclusive of all groups?
-Which external groups can I use as a resource to create/maintain a much safe environment?
D. How to fight the impostor syndrome?
-How to help to increase a community so they feel/are represented?
-How can I reduce or eliminate the “token” presence?
Asking these questions to some mentors/friends/colleagues, a lot of solutions that I have got is to create spaces where people can initiate a conversation about these issues. Some examples are workshops, conferences and/or meetings that can educate people about these problems and how to deal with them. Personally, I think the conversation is a great starter, but we also need to understand that we have to be comfortable with the idea of feeling uncomfortable. Conversations could be effective and productive if people do not avoid feeling uncomfortable with these topics. We cannot create a safe space for these groups if we do not want to understand or at least hear their realities. Another issue with conversations is that we cannot speak for minority groups, we need to allow them to tell their story and respect if they do not want to. We cannot impose ourselves and force them to share their story even if we have good intentions, because intentions are not the same as impacts and while we just want to help or do something good, the results could be catastrophic. At the end minorities do not need a hero, we just want to feel safe.
To conclude this, besides creating conversation and being okay with being uncomfortable, we need to actively put an action in our thoughts and ask ourselves constantly if our actions have made us participants excluding these communities. Also, we need to be held accountable and act now. Waiting is a privilege. In the end, we all have been guilty of this at some point in our lifetimes, still, is never too late to work on it.
Some resources that help me to understand a little bit more this topic are in here. You are welcome to explore them, do a little bit more research about it and create your own opinion. If you have something that you want to share and think that could be beneficial about this topic, share it with me. I always love good constructive feedback.