What I’ve Learned from Growing My Understanding of Diversity & Inclusion
What Do Diversity and Inclusion Look Like for Me?
Diversity and Inclusion: two ‘buzz’ terms you seemingly hear everywhere these days. I had never paid attention to those words until after I graduated college and moved to Seattle – which was strange given I grew up in South Florida, a true melting pot.
As I settled into my new life in Seattle, I started listening, watching and observing everything. More terms became prominent during my discovery phase: multicultural, microaggressions, unconscious bias, systematic racism, intersectionality. The list goes on and it was overwhelming. I needed to digest and unpack everything, so I started with one question – how does it all relate to me?
Accepting Difference & Understanding Our Own Perspectives
Let’s start with diversity. My identity has never been something I really paid attention to. I knew I was a Latinx millennial with immigrant parents and that’s about it.
I only thought about diversity in terms of race, but it goes way beyond that: ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, ideology or worldview, etc. We are all more than just one label and that is something I constantly had to remind myself.
Though there is power in shared experiences, these experiences differ person to person. Humans are multi-faceted and that is our true beauty. The problem is more times than not, we lean into a ‘like-me’ mindset. I do it, my friends do it, it happens everywhere, especially in the workplace.
We talk about having a seat at the table, but we need to look around the table and be honest about what we’re bringing to it. It can be uncomfortable at times and hard, but we miss out on so many opportunities to grow, learn, and push past boundaries that would truly allow us to embrace diversity.
Developing a More Inclusive Perspective
Now let’s add inclusion into the mix. I learned more about this through a personal experience. ‘Did we all have the same childhood?’ memes are popular on Twitter. Users share moments from their youth and millions of other users connect to those moments because almost the exact thing happened to them, and the ‘Likes’ and ‘Retweets’ come pouring in.
Shared experiences are indeed powerful, but we don’t all have those shared experiences. I was in a room with some colleagues and we were talking about our childhood trips and everyone talked about camping and taking road trips and being outdoors. I could not relate; I felt uncomfortable as I had nothing to contribute.
After calling my mom and doing some Googling, I came across some interesting information. The Latinx community faces a lot of barriers to entry in being outdoors. This seems counterintuitive at first: the outdoors is the outdoors – how is it not inclusive?
Realization hit as I started thinking about the process of accessing the outdoors: to choose just one possible barrier, in a place like Seattle, are there maps/instructions for camping, hiking, etc. in popular areas available in Spanish and other common languages easily available for non-English speakers? I could not venture out into the woods just by trusting my gut. What about access to the tools, communities, resources, gear, training and knowledge-sharing, etc. that experienced outdoor adventurers rely on? Are those equally available to all people?
There is so much that could prevent this one valuable experience of spending time on outdoor trips from being welcoming to those who face various barriers, but what can we do about problems like these? I’d say the first step is to be aware. Awareness helps facilitate conversations that lead to actions both big and small to increase inclusivity.
Diversity, Inclusion and Hospitality at Wheelhouse
After processing some of the ways in which diversity and inclusion relate to me and my story, I’ve continued thinking about how it relates to others. How do I take the information I’m gathering and processing, that I’m somewhat privileged to have, in order to move the needle – especially in the workplace?
As I considered this question, one idea became especially important to me: hospitality. The word hospitality comes from the Latin ‘hospes’, which came from the word ‘hostis’, which originally meant “to have power.” When we practice hospitality, we exercise the power we hold to make others feel accepted and empowered, to anticipate their needs, and to respond quickly when we realize not everyone has been taken care of properly.
Hospitality is also a concept that is highly important at Wheelhouse, and seeing the opportunity to work for Diversity and Inclusion as part of our commitment to hospitality has inspired me and my colleagues as we continue to find ways to make the experiences of working with and for Wheelhouse as hospitable and positive as possible.
The work of diversity and inclusion is never over, and rarely easy, but we have the power of information, awareness and education to help recognize opportunities for growth in our culture here and address them effectively. This is what Wheelhouse DMG is leaning on and why I am so happy to be able to work somewhere that puts their money where their mouth is.
How Can Wheelhouse Show You Hospitality?
If you’re someone working to build a culture of diversity and inclusion in your organization and have any tips or proven methods for us, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Also, if you are currently facing challenges with nurturing diversity and inclusion or dealing with any other People- or Culture-related issues during the Covid-19 pandemic and would like the input of our experienced HR and People professionals and other team members at Wheelhouse with expertise in these areas, please reach out! We’re leaning on values like Hospitality, Generosity and Trustworthiness during this time of crisis and we would love to connect with you or help you however we can.