Invisibility of Diversity in the Workplace

I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a fantastic event, “Best Hiring Practices to Increase Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace” at Uberflip. It was organized by The Big Push, an organization I recently was introduced to and have started following. The panel of senior tech, recruiting, HR and diversity & inclusion experts was moderated by Jamie Hoobanoff of The Leadership Agency. Not only should you check out Jamie’s company but have a look at their latest initiative called, #WeCelebrateLeaders.

Diversity & inclusion is an area of focus that I have spent a lot of time in during my career. Forget the fact that I have a severe hearing disability in both ears and speech impediment, I made the decision to pursue a career in HR. Conversations around D&I has certainly skyrocketed within my circles during the past year or so. This happened primarily because of the many horrible and disgusting events that have happened in well-known tech companies in North America targeting women.

Jamie asked a handful of pretty difficult questions, and for the most part, the responses were pretty solid. The focus of the responses were clearly on gender and race diversity, which I fully expected given 99.9% of the conversations around diversity and inclusion at work are focused on these areas. I also liked the different perspectives of the panelists — this diversity was appreciated so that we could learn as much as possible. Below are a couple of key takeaways and observations.

Takeaway #1

We still have work to do when it comes to workplace inclusion. I believe each of the panelists mentioned inclusion but the bulk of the conversation was around diversity. Leading D&I expert Verna Myers quotes, “keep in mind that diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance”. Once you have attracted and recuited a diverse workforce how do you ensure each and every employee can bring their whole selves to work and feel like they belong? I know I know… it’s not easy at all. I built a model for workplace inclusion awhile ago and it’s gone through several iterations. I shared it in a blog post last year, which was part of a three-post series looking at diversity and inclusion at work. Have a look here, and you’ll see the table-like model in the middle of the post.

Takeaway #2

I asked a question for the panelists, which was, “how do you deal with things that make us different but are invisible”? Sexual orientation, race, some disabilities and the list goes on are visible. People can see them immediately. However, there are so many things in life that are invisible or hard to see. Examples include hearing loss (i.e. you can’t always see someone wearing hearing aids), Vertigo, mental illness, etc… I was hoping that someone on the panel would responsd by talking about the principles of inclusion — education, conversation and communication, values-based culture, etc…

We have a very long way to go on the journey of making our workplaces truly inclusive. There are millions of things that make us different as people, and we will never be experts at dealing with each one. However, we can learn skills to be able that will allow us to ask the right questions, engage in dialogue, be more aware of our surroundings, make more carful decisions based on inclusive principles, have foresight on the impact of our actions, etc… This we can do, and we can learn. No matter what our individual differences may be the skills required to include others are these things, and they’re learnable.

So, I certainly hope this conversation on diversity and inclusion at work continues because we have a very long way to go, and we need to broaden the conversation to include all things that make us different as people.

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