The I in Inclusion
With Diversity & Inclusion becoming a part of everyday conversation, it becomes important to understand the intent. Everyone wants to be treated fairly and equally, access to equal opportunities, treated with dignity and equal work – equal pay. All of this seems obvious, no brainer yet the workplace can be rife with practices which can be discriminatory.
Diversity is by default & inclusion is by choice.
No two individuals are identically the same: physical features, abilities & skillset, through the process, life experience, anything, and everything can and will be different. At a workplace where people come together to achieve an end goal of creating a product or delivering a service, our little differences can be celebrated or can become impediments.
The inherent nature of assumption is such that, our personal experiences shape our reality and we assume that everyone else experiences the same reality. This personal assumption gets further reinforced when our circle comprises of people with similar life experiences, and that shapes the culture of the organization. Also, an addition to a homogeneous group reinforces the common traits/beliefs/norms of the group, while addition to a diverse group brings forth the diversity of the members. The culture of the organization then influences the policies, benefits, governance of the workplace, and in such situation, an individual with any difference feels the pressure to cover. To cover is to downplay the difference & strive to be a culture fit and that can cost the individual their bandwidth to actual work. The constant need to remember the difference, the covering up all the time can take a toll, for now not only if the person competing with other coworkers on the assigned role, but also spending bandwidth to fit in. May it be a LBG colleague covering their sexuality, a transgender co-worker blending in their assigned gender, a single parent consciously talking less about their child, a woman laughing on sexist jokes, etc. Stigmas can be for every little difference: height, body weight, sexuality, gender, education, accent, disability, marital status, religion, caste, political views, race, ethnicity, food choices etc and every little difference is an opportunity to engage or disengage.
Hence, it becomes crucial for every organization to ensure that they look at their primary assumptions and ensure they have space for difference and ensure equality of opportunity to all employees.
Author: RamkrishnaSinha, Co-founder of Pride Circle.