It’s been an extraordinary time for realising and reacting to change, and the themes of this year have to be around shared consciousness.
It has not just been the shared understanding of Covid-19 but also the global reaction to ‘Black Lives Matter’ that showed we all have a lot more in common. As a result, the challenge of diversity and inclusion has never felt more urgent.
Despite the greater focus and understanding, however, those two ideas still tend to be lumped together, and that’s problematic. Before we discuss why this is a problem, it is always beneficial to define what we’re talking about.
Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and recognising our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender and many other identifications. Whereas inclusion is the action of recognising these differences; it is the action that all differences deserve to be seen, heard and included equally in all conversations.
It is important to note that an environment or organisation can be diverse but not inclusive, and equally inclusive but not necessarily diverse.
So what does this mean for any kind of positive change? We need to start asking questions around how we can create authentically, actively inclusive spaces. It’s all well and good to recognise difference, but unless difference is catered for, the attention is sweet but almost futile. Recognising difference without accommodating it often falls into the category of othering and the traditional trope of exclusive observation.
Inclusion is about effort. Inclusion is not only recognising that your workplace has Muslim employees; it is making sure there is a private prayer room available. Inclusion is not just having black employees; it is realising that traditional black hairstyles are professional and should not be penalised. Inclusion is not just recognising that you have non-binary friends; it is using their correct pronouns so they feel seen.
Diversity is a noun. Inclusion is a verb, an ongoing process that takes constant involvement and reassessment of what caters to all involved in order to be achieved.