Diversity and Inclusion
Remember when we were small children, and all we cared about were the simple things. Every day was a fresh start, and the possibilities were endless. Our friendships were the most important thing for us. We didn’t care whether Matty or Lou was short or tall, Black or Asian, Muslim or Jewish. We all played together in the same sandbox and color was of little importance., until someone told us otherwise. Based on our family, where we grew up, our traditions, education and religious backgrounds we became increasingly selective about our friends, who we dated, and who we let into our homes.
Our upbringing often dictated the “who,” “what,” and “where,” of these relationships and it became ingrained and part of us. In some circles, this is known as personal baggage. Unlike airplanes, there’s no place to “check it” or to store it in an overhead rack. There’s no charge, but there certainly is a cost.
In the workplace, we are expected to embrace diversity and inclusion, and we are expected to tamp down what we know and how we feel for the greater good. In the workplace discrimination will not be tolerated. That’s the law. Teams must be inclusive, not exclusive and the value of diversity is widely recognized. We are told diversity and inclusion have value. We must all exist in an environment where people of diverse work and life experiences openly communicate in an atmosphere of trust where our differences in opinions and beliefs can be heard. Visuals images now depict people from different races, genders, ages, cultures, etc., but isn’t that just scratching the surface? “What about the differences that we can’t see?” asked Sheila Lee of Learning Everywhere®? These would be considered “visible differences,” diversity that can be identified with the naked eye. What about the invisible differences? How do you know when you have included those as well?
All my life I have been categorized as an African American woman, but in 2008 I was given yet another label. This time it came in the form of a medical diagnosis or a disability. The condition affects agility which sometimes requires the use of a Handicap Parking Permit. In doing so, it’s been absolutely amazing the verbal assaults, and public shaming one is subjected to. It has reinforced how much reliance is put upon our visual senses to assess an individual’s diversity. If an outward appearance does not reflect physical limitations and observers are left with only a superficial perception of physical abilities. It is with that recognition that I reply “your ignorance is showing!” says Sheila Lee.
So how often have you made judgments about people based on what you could and could not see? Never giving credit or thought to the visible and invisible differences that exist among us. Imagine an environment where everybody thinks and acts exactly the way you do. Without diversity, everything is the same and with that are limited talents, skills, and experiences because everyone does everything the same way, all the time. If there is change it is likely to be one dimensional because no one disagrees, questions, or adds value. There’s no innovation; nothing gained, nothing new, nothing changed. The lack of diversity would stifle all curiosity and thus creativity.
Imagine every day you’re talking to, listening to, and working with your mirror image. Everybody is just like you, has the same upbringing, the same opinions, ideas, and prejudices. Everyone is the same as you, no differences, only similarities. No “them,” just “us.” Wow, how great is that! Aren’t you excited? Maybe not, because this is a world without diversity.
Those who choose to embrace diversity and its inclusiveness are in for a world of hearty discussions, new directions, and lots of creativity. They will not sit still and wait but are more likely to be among the leaders of change. They will ask why, share their opinions, and encourage others to share their ideas.
Diversity and Inclusion programs help organizations to recruit the best-qualified workforce to achieve results by recognizing diversity is an advantage. Every employee is responsible for ensuring that their workplace is one that is supportive of diversity programs and affirmative EEO programs. That is the first step. The next is to establish diversity programs to help manage the changing workforce.
A successful organization understands the value of diversity. It aims to raise the awareness of its employees which are its most important asset. The Return on Investment (ROI) for this program topic includes dimensions of diversity, recognizing cultural biases, communicating with sensitivity, but in a Learning Everywhere® program there is much more.
Participants are provided with the necessary tools to become more aware of the differences and similarities of both internal and external customers. They are also better able to recognize when and how to leverage each. Programs address the following:
- Describe the various categories of diversity such as race, age, religion, ethnic background, gender, occupation, disability.
- Describe your own possible biases.
- Discuss available resources for handling diversity-related issues.
- Identify how to access additional diversity resources.
Learning Everywhere® is a seasoned international training company that expertly leads competency based formal training sessions for large and small groups, comprised of participants ranging from front-line employees to senior level executives in the public and private sectors. Our training facilitators have extensive experience and impressive credentials and understand the value of taping into the learners as a resource. By engaging participants in active discussions, our team will build relevance and meaning, thereby enhancing retention and maximizing the likelihood that skills learned in the classroom are applied back in the workplace. Participants will enter into conversations, debate and disagree, raise new questions, and discuss consequences. Different personalities, voices, values, and approaches will spark interest, and these contrasting viewpoints will encourage more active class participation and independent thinking from all learners.