When Your Colleagues Just Don’t Get the Point of Diversity & Inclusion

Your company, or your school, or your non-profit claims they are “committed to diversity,” but by the look of things you can’t tell. And the truth is, the “Strategic Plan” seems to be to talk about diversity until it’s time to revisit the strategic plan. Or even worse, your colleagues think talking about race is racist.

You’re about two seconds from dialing the EEOC hotline and maybe you should, but along with that is another strategy: Find the areas of your workplace that would be impacted positively by diversity and develop a simple 3–5 point justification for beginning a diversity and inclusion work group.

Here are some thoughts you can use to get the ball rolling:

So let’s start at the very beginning: Why should a workplace worry about whether or not the workforce is diverse?

Well, first of all, a diverse workforce trickles down into positive outcomes for larger society.

For instance, hiring people with disabilities makes room on the disability benefits roll for citizens with more pronounced difficulties, who really need financial assistance and can’t work. Seeing disabled professionals at work helps to dismantle ableism and lessen the ingrained belief that persons with disabilities are “mystical,” or to be pitied, or are permanent children.

Hiring employees with immigrant backgrounds allows your institution to effectively serve the public that is increasingly international and multilingual.

Hiring older employees can add a centeredness and deep historical memory that creates balance and synergy in teams. I wrote a book entitled Chop: A collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer. The book focuses on the life and import of proto-feminist civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. Mrs. Hamer was 44 years old when she said yes to a group of very young activists who come to her part of Mississippi to assist with voter registration. She was old enough to be most of their mothers, but what they found was that her deep investment in the community gave them an entry that they had not previously been able to attain. Mrs. Hamer is an excellent example of how age diversity can greatly improve your marketplace goals.

To add, a diverse workforce “normalizes the normal.” For example if you see an African American person is the sports trainer; and then in another department at a university an African American person is the physics professor; and then in yet another area an African American person is the janitor; then you know that African American people can inhabit multiple class levels, and multiple levels of expertise.

Imagine children growing up with these varied expansive views of people of color, people with disabilities, and older people. They would become a society that would find it very hard to truck in narrow stereotypes about these groups.

And of course, all of this affects the bottom line positively, widens the population you can serve (or sell to), gives you entry into bigger markets, and fills your workplace with “diversity of thought,” leading to innovation and time saving.

Diversity is just a win-win all around!

So if your organization has some key players who just don’t get why the subject of diversity keeps coming up, you can share these ideas with them, or you can contact me and I can tell them about it.

(PS. That photo is of the participants in St. Louis’s Brick City Poetry Festival. Isn’t that a beautifully diverse group of artists?)

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Treasure Shields Redmond is a St. Louis metro-area based writer, speaker, diversity and inclusion coach, and social justice educator. Her book, CHOP (www.argushousepress.com) focuses on the life of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. Over a 20-year educational career, Treasure has facilitated dialogues about diversity, inclusion, & Justice. The Non-Profit Services Center, The United Way, and the Regional Arts Commission have all been venues where Treasure has presented/facilitated in this arena. Combining her gifts (writing, coaching, and presenting) with her passion (diversity and inclusion) Treasure is able to lead strategic plan writing and facilitate beginning dialogues about race, class, gender, and ability. Presently, Treasure divides her time between being an assistant professor of English at Southwestern Illinois College, and doctoral studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Treasure writes about issues of social justice on her blog at http://www.femininepronoun.wordpress.com.

Contact Treasure at treasure.shieldsredmond@gmail.com

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Originally published at femininepronoun.wordpress.com on January 8, 2016.

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