It’s 2019 and the world has getting a little more inclusive for a while now. If you’ve let words like ‘cis’ and ‘non-binary’ pass you by until now or dismissed it all as ‘too hard’, the new year is just as good a time as any to get with the programme. 7 ways to get on board with inclusivity, starting now.
1. Get into the empathy mindset
Be mindful that in a diverse workplace, the everyday challenges faced by each employee may differ drastically from one person to the next. While some everyday challenges may be difficult to relate to, especially when one does not even consider the challenge a problem in the first place, it is important to remain empathetic. Avoid well-intentioned comments like ‘maybe they didn’t mean it that way,’ ‘perhaps you’re overthinking it,’ or ‘just shrug it off and move on’ that may invalidate the feelings and emotions of those that do consider something to be a problem.
That being said, one should also refrain from over-empathising and forcefully inserting oneself into another group’s shoes just to seem more ‘relatable.’ It is incredibly easy to draw false equivalencies between one’s own life experiences and the challenges faced by another group of people, but this should best be avoided. In an inclusive workplace, the best thing we can do is to listen to our colleagues and be an ally where we can.
2. Take the lead
We all have a responsibility for shaping our workplace culture. So think about how you can help create an environment where it is okay for others to disagree without being derogatorily labelled.
3. Avoid ‘splaining
Mansplaining and whitesplaining are incredibly pervasive inside and outside the workplace. Learn how to recognise it, teach those around you to recognise it, and call it out whenever you see it in action.
Mansplaining: the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.
Whitesplaining: To explain (something) condescendingly to one who is not white, especially regarding race relations or minority behaviour, presuming the listener’s inferior understanding because of their race.
4. Embrace gender sensitivity
- Use inclusive terminology (spouse/partner vs. wife/husband)
- Don’t assume your co-workers’ preferred pronouns. To normalise putting pronouns out there you could add them to your email signature (e.g. Sam Smith [he/him]), or include a sentence such as:
Diversity and inclusion are part of my professional and personal values. One way to practice these values is to share gender pronouns. My name is Sam and I use she/her pronouns. What pronouns do you use?
- Avoid language that may be deemed offensive and non-inclusive even if it is ‘only a joke’ and the ‘offended party’ is not physically present.
5. Throw your assumptions out the window
If you are unsure about something, the best thing to do is to ask. Don’t assume the ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation or a colleague. It is always awkward being the Vietnamese colleague whom everyone just assumes reads, writes and speaks Chinese.
6. Don’t treat your colleague as the spokesperson
Remember, your colleagues might not want to be the spokesperson for their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation etc.
There are certainly exceptions. Perhaps a colleague is particularly zealous about the background they represent and therefore more than happy to answer any and every question the company may have about Buddhism, coming into the country as a refugee, or being a single mother. Or perhaps they are incredibly sensitive about and/or uncomfortable with being the ‘token’ voice for a certain group. It is best to ask your colleague(s) in private if they are comfortable with representing Buddhists/ refugees/ single mothers before calling them out in front of the entire team. If they are not, let them know that that is completely okay.
7. Actively search for diverse colleagues
Key words such as ‘diversity,’ ‘all backgrounds welcome’ and ‘inclusivity’ should be visible and highlighted throughout recruiting ads. Emphasise the importance of having a diverse team at job recruitment interviews.
8. Educate yourself
Finally, remember that it’s 2019 and it doesn’t cut it to dismiss inclusivity as ‘too difficult’. If you don’t know the difference between transexual and transgender, it’s super easy to Google it. While no one is suggesting you need to memorise the dictionary, you should make an effort to learn about the most common terms and labels in pop culture today. This Human Rights Commission glossary is a great place to start.