Katharine Schaffzin, Dean of University of Memphis Cecil C Humphreys School of Law recently stated:
‘My perspective is flawed. It is also inadequate and incapable of accurately perceiving the depth of the fear and despair felt by Black members of our...community. I am an inadequate vessel to deliver this message. But I am human, I have a void, and it is my obligation to speak, despite my imperfections.’
Dean Schaffzin is most certainly correct: as humans, it is all of our obligation to speak.
Societies only work when we all work together; according to history, groups that come to power based on some arbitrary bias - religion, skin color, etc. - cannot remain in power indefinitely, and it breeds resentment that leads to war and community collapse. Our shared experience of humanity is significant in cultivating an arena for everyone to not only survive, but thrive. Teachers, parents, civil servants, every facet of our society is responsible for identifying ways to share voices and see beyond our differences, and employers and writers are no exception. Encouraging inclusiveness, diversity, and equity is not only necessary - it is vital to the future of our communal success. How will you make a positive difference?
Diversity’s power is endless
‘We have to use this moment to accelerate our nation's long journey towards justice and a more perfect union...Silence is NOT an option’. In the past few weeks, public relations posts, tweets, and statements have flooded our screens, including this one from Ben & Jerry's. Each reminds us of our responsibility in the process, the power of diversity and inclusion, and the facts that we must embrace our different experiences, it’s our jobs to not only demand equity and equality for every person, and we need to actively work to make that change a reality. While the landscape in writing and publishing is shifting, historically, the voices of the majority have often been the loudest. Diversity has powerful assets that the eyes cannot see.
Diversity encourages critical thinking, fosters inclusivity, forms allies, and reminds us all that a multi-dimensional, multi-layered, and diverse group is far 'greater than the sum of its parts'. Jill Solloway, the creator of the Amazon show, Transparent, reminds us, ‘We live in a complicated, messy world where every day we have to proactively re-center our own experiences by challenging privilege’. We must be mindful of those unconscious biases, cultivate a culture of tolerance, and invite more voices into the conversation. Having the ability to say 'I don’t know' is necessary. Asking for guidance from experts is beneficial. Employing guest editors whose voices need to be heard is critical. Change isn’t easy for anyone, but silence is not an option.
Inclusiveness benefits more than your business
Sarah Kaiser, Employee Experience, Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Fujitsu tells us, ‘in a globalized, hyper-connected and multi-cultural society, diversity and inclusion are key drivers of employee engagement and productivity, talent acquisition, innovation and growth’. Not only is embracing diversity and opening channels to foster inclusion good for business, but this line of thought creates more space, helps to even the overall field of play, and vastly grows your talent pool. Those at the top must continue to constantly challenge old-school 'corporate assumptions' and consciously help to re-define the scope and mindset of the company. These leaders have the ability to consistently facilitate more opportunities to welcome more diverse voices. Companies can provide multi-faceted training tools and resources that recognize unconscious biases and cultivate a community of equity and fairness. Leaders make a difference.
The benefits of forward thinking management, empathetic leadership, and inclusiveness far exceed perceptions. The amalgamation of cultures, ideas, and varied perspectives enhance effectiveness and a company's overall success. Customers seek businesses that employ socially responsible practices and employees yearn for a happy, productive, safe environment - one that encourages diversity and fosters mutual respect. ‘With inclusivity as a priority’, a workforce complete with employees of different generations, stages of career, mindsets, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, languages, work styles and personalities coupled with a mix of those with varied sexuality, race, gender, disability, and religion creates innovation and an infinitely happier workplace environment.
Amplify voices, share the mic
As active participants in the human experience, we each have a platform to use. It could be social media, a newsletter, an email, a phone call, a meal, or a conference to provide a seat at the table and elevate and amplify marginalized voices; but it takes all of us to remember that diversity and inclusion are not stand-alone initiatives. It takes time to nurture that progress, monitor effectiveness, and continually harvest change. We can be persistently conscious about our connections, more aware of how our thoughts, words and actions are perceived by our community, and actively work to increase both access and equity to those to whom it’s been denied by far too many for far too long.
‘Actively supporting someone’s career and someone’s voice because you believe the culture or the world is better with those voices in it’ fosters empathy, and encourages each of us to actively contribute to a more open, more equitable, and more inclusive society. ‘Children of color, LGBTQ+ kids and children with disabilities all yearn to see themselves reflected in the books they read’. The desire to be seen and feel listened to doesn’t end when we become adults. We are a better, stronger, more beautiful society when our experiences, stories, and voices are included, valued, and welcomed. ‘It takes many other voices to elevate the voices that do get to be heard.’
All over the globe, conversations are sparking change. It begins in the hearts and minds, carries on at that kitchen table, and launches to transcend the world. ‘The business world must come together and be more engaged and vocal than it has been to promote the message of a diverse and tolerant society. It is an uphill battle, but peace, prosperity and advancement depend upon it.’ The more inclusive each facet of a business, the more voices added to the conversation, the more diversity at the table, the greater benefit for all. We cannot let this moment pass without notice, without reflection, without action, and without change for the better. Time is of the essence, the job is ours, the moment is now. Make more room at the table. Include different perspectives. Listen intently to varied experiences.
This is how, together, we make change. It starts with us.