Why Belonging Is an Essential Element of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

By Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer at Workday

I had the honor of speaking at the recent Culturati Summit about why belonging is a crucial — but often overlooked — aspect of diversity DEI. Following are some highlights of what I shared at the Summit.

Here’s the moment I knew I would dedicate my life to making sure everyone felt like they belonged: At a sales conference with 300 people in the room, I sat as one of 10 women, one of two African Americans, and the only African American woman in the room. The topic of conversation that day was diversity. A white male executive stood in front of us ready to talk about diversity, and my gut reaction was: How could this guy, who looks the way he does, be talking to me about diversity? After the discussion I confronted him with my thoughts. In this moment, my own unconscious bias hit me as he replied, “I’m gay.”

It wasn’t until I got home that I recognized the impact of that interaction. I wasn’t giving this man any credit for who he was as an individual. Instead, what I had done to him is what people have done to me my entire life — judging me based on what I look like. And I, in turn, started to do it to other people. That was the moment I said to myself that I would never make another person feel undervalued, or let my bias get in the way, simply because of what they look like. And so, here I am today, to talk with you about the importance of belonging in the workplace.

What Does it Mean to Belong?

If you asked me to define belonging, I would say it has three parts:

  1. Knowing you’re an integral part of a community
  2. Feeling safe within that community
  3. Being recognized as an individual

That last piece regarding individuality is key. Because what I need to satisfy all three of those components might be different from what you need. To feel like one belongs is personal. So, in a sense, the real definition is subjective, and the leaders who truly foster an environment of inclusivity will do well to ask their employees and community members: What gives you a sense of belonging?

P.E.A.C.E.

I also believe that there are certain things that need to be in place, generally, for any person to feel like they belong. They are five tenets I call P.E.A.C.E.

Psychological Safety

If psychological safety is not in place, then psychological harm is.

Empathy

Cultivating an environment of care and compassion.

Acceptance

In order to belong, you have to feel accepted for the individual you are.

Connection

Feeling connected to both purpose and people.

Embraced

Being appreciated, recognized, and valued.

It is our leaders who must ensure that these factors are in place, and call out bad behaviors where necessary, to embrace the individual’s belonging.

Things You Can Do to Foster Belonging

There are a number of things we can all do to help encourage an environment of belonging:

● Be an ally to someone from a community different from your own

● Model inclusive behaviors

● Lead with empathy and compassion

● Recognize and celebrate differences in cultures of people on your team

● Make personal connections to make people feel welcome

● Make sure all voices are heard

● Practice active listening

● Be curious and don’t assume; ask questions instead

Belonging & Diversity in Practice, Not Theory

Over the last two years at Workday we’ve been focused on increasing representation for our Black and Latinx communities. We’ve seen a strong increase in our Black population because our workforce and our executives leaned in to understand we had a deficiency there. I’m proud that my organization not only understands our strengths but also our areas for growth and opportunity, and our efforts support how we aim to create meaningful and lasting change.

One example I’d like to share is about an employee with a non-traditional background who came through our Opportunity Onramps® program. When he was hired on full-time, this man had tears in his eyes and said, “I have never felt so welcomed and wanted before in a company.” That notion of really making a person feel like, this is my place, a place where I can thrive, is a beautiful thing. That to me is what belonging is all about.

In addition to our efforts over the past two years, we recognize we’re currently at a critical point in time. From world events to ones happening in our local communities, we know there is a lot more work to do, and we’re committed to taking meaningful action — consistent to how we have and continue to support our communities in need.

Culturati will be hosting a virtual summit in June featuring the sessions from the in-person event and more. To find out more and register go here.

About the Author

Carin Taylor is chief diversity officer at Workday and has global responsibility for the development and execution of VIBE™ (Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity), Workday’s inclusion and diversity strategy.

Prior to joining Workday, Carin served as the head of diversity, inclusion, and innovation at Genentech where she was responsible for strategic initiatives including executive coaching, building and leading highly effective teams, and increasing employee engagement. She was also responsible for creating strategies to successfully recruit, develop, and retain diverse workforces as well as enabling large organizations to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive innovation. Before Genentech, Carin held various positions in human resources, inclusion and diversity, finance, and customer service at Cisco Systems.

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