An Exploration Of Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion: INCLUSION

The Glue That Binds Diversity And Equity Initiatives And The Interconnection Of All Three

The final installment of this series is focused on inclusion. You can read the entire series here:

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) wrote an inspiring piece on How to Attract and Support Neurodiverse Talent. This piece explores a different variety of diversity – cognitive diversity – as well as the importance of incorporating inclusive practices to support diverse workforces. Khalil Smith, leading the diversity and inclusion practice at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) notes, “Inclusion absolutely is the device that unlocks diversity, because diversity in and of itself is interesting. But [you must create] an environment of inclusive behaviors where people genuinely feel and believe and see it demonstrated that the way that they think, the way that they act, the way that they approach problems, their background and who they are [is valued].”

What Are Inclusive Practices?

Inclusivity requires intentional action. What can put diversity efforts at risk are conflated grand gestures that leave no lasting impact on team culture or standards for work, individuals, and communities. A great example that I’ve found was from the forementioned SHRM article. Consider that you’ve recently added new members to your team that represent diverse backgrounds, cultures, ways of thinking and working, and more. Bringing them on the team without creating an environment that contributes to feeling welcomed and accepted, will only leave them isolated with no true sense of belonging. When an environment like this persists, people will ultimately feel or become ostracized and leave. Inclusive practices can be incorporated by surveying new hires to capture their preferred methods of collaboration and communication styles. This reinforces that their different backgrounds, preferences, opinions, and expertise are valued and prioritized.

One example I vividly remember was the first time I styled my hair in braids as Chief of the Pediatric Plastic Surgery Division. I didn’t think much of it, until one of the African American workers came to me privately and shared that it was the first time in over 15 years that she felt the courage to style her hair in braids. She recounted being told during previous interviews that braids were not professional. Not until she saw me with braids, did she decide to get her hair braided as well. Wow – it was like a gut punch. For over a decade, she felt that she could not be her authentic self at work, void of any feeling of inclusion.

Why Diversity Cannot Exist Without Inclusion

There is an attention-grabbing catchphrase that sounds something like “diversity without inclusion is exclusion.” What does that mean? These words reaffirm the recurring theme of this series; that using diversity as a prop without implementing inclusive practices will eventually lead to failure. Inclusivity is creating communities and workplaces where individuals are included irrespective of their race, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, gender, or expression.

In conclusion, diversity is the key that opens the door. Equity makes the door accessible to everyone by considering each person’s circumstances to determine how to provide resources and opportunity. Inclusion creates the environment that welcomes, values, and respects the different ways each individual opens that door. It is the existence of each of these concepts and their synergy that contributes to a more just and representative society.

Thanks for reading and taking this glimpse into diversity, equity, and inclusion with me. Hope you have enjoyed this mini-series!