We have had eight diversity and inclusion meetings so far, and we hope you will be attending the next one on March 19th. These open-to-all meetings are a way for us to listen to our community and receive feedback. The discussions also provide an opportunity to gather tips and recommendations from members who are already on this journey and showing us the path to follow.
At the last meeting we spoke about:
On this occasion, attendees described their choice to focus on encouraging grassroots initiatives. More precisely, an attendee recommended having a clear vision or ethos and supporting local endeavours. The attendee found that they received more engagement in their efforts. They focused on encouraging them through funding that would help them to have their voices heard and give them a platform to be more visible. However, this focus stirred polarised discussions. The concern came from their focus on helping only one less-represented group instead of targeting all underrepresented groups. This organisation saw it as unrealistic to tackle all the issues at once. Their choice was to see if they could move the needle forward with one group first and learn from their successes and mistakes. Then, when they saw progress, they would start tackling the next diversity issue. The unexpected advantage they encountered by focusing on one aspect of diversity was that their efforts encouraged people to create other affinity groups. This then leads more people to be curious about these activities and offer their efforts in return.
Small programs need the support of leadership; otherwise, they die due to lack of attention. Initiatives need so-called “champions” to encourage participation. Diversity and Inclusion efforts need the help of these champions’ connections to open doors that would otherwise be out of reach or out of sight.
For example, this could translate into:
People also need to be made aware of their own unconscious biases. This awareness is critical at leadership level because unconscious bias happens to everyone. Biases can slow down progress towards more equality. I was personally most surprised to learn about height and weight biases, for example. One study found that a six-foot-tall person earns roughly $5,500 more per year than someone five and a half feet tall, regardless of gender, age or weight. As for weight bias, it remains a socially acceptable form of prejudice in most Western society and is rarely challenged. In a work setting, employees affected by obesity are sometimes seen unfairly, as less competent, lazy and lacking in self-discipline by their co-workers and employers. These attitudes can negatively impact wages, promotions, and employment status decisions for employees affected by obesity.
Overcoming biases requires a great deal of introspection, discussions and learning. One attendee expressed the importance to do whatever we can as individuals. We need to stand up when we hear wrong things or call out non-inclusive attitudes. It does not have to be confrontational; a “could you explain that to me?” would start the discussion.
Another observation was that people leading the discussion around diversity and inclusion are usually black or female. They don’t receive support from people who aren’t, either verbally or in leading these efforts and discussions. We cannot leave the responsibility of eradicating discrimination to the very people who are the victims of that discrimination. Everyone needs to work together.
I want to thank all past attendees for their participation and for opening up about their struggles and successes to drive a more inclusive community for all. Hope to speak with you at the next meeting to discuss the next steps towards true diversity, equity and inclusion.