We can all hear the collective groan when another “cultural” celebration is announced at your workplace. Cinco de Mayo? Let’s have tacos and hire a mariachi band. Diwali? Paint our hands with henna!
Diversity and inclusion are important in the non-profit sector – especially so for those charities that serve underrepresented and marginalized communities. But lots of us get it wrong when it comes to practicing inclusion in a way that is actually sincere, and not just a token gesture.
Authentic inclusion goes beyond symbolic gestures and “celebrating” different races, cultures, abilities, gender identities and sexual orientations. We can’t just throw a potluck and hope that employees magically become self-aware and understand their own privilege, and the unique perspectives that marginalized groups have and the challenges they face.
We need to go deeper, making sure that our organizations practice inclusion as a core value, infusing it into daily life and into the organization’s strategic plans and goals.
Here are some ideas to consider when thinking about how to incorporate principles of inclusion in your organization:
1. DOES YOUR LEADERSHIP REFLECT DIVERSITY?
First and foremost, take a look at who’s leading your organization. It’s important that your leadership reflect your clients and your staff. Diversity at the top gives your employees and program participants the ability to relate to leadership, and to see themselves in those positions later on. It’s a great retention tool. You don’t need to fire a bunch of people to accomplish this. Instead, take a look at your succession plan and make sure you’re removing unintentional discrimination from your hiring practices.
2. MAKE INCLUSION A CORE COMPETENCY FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES
Include diversity and inclusion as competencies that you screen for during the hiring process, and in the skills listed on your job descriptions. These should also be reflected as goals in your organization’s staff performance evaluations, and you should provide supervision through the year to help your employees grow.
3. INVEST IN TRAINING.
Make training on inclusion mandatory for your staff. You can hire a consultant to run a workshop, or create a mentoring program in your organization. You can also build a library (digital or not) of resources that employees can use on their own time for self-directed learning. Make sure your workplace is a safe space to learn – be non-judgemental and open to questions and discussions.
4. COMPENSATE COMMUNITY MEMBERS FOR THEIR HELP.
Lots of us make the mistake of asking people from marginalized communities if we can “pick their brains.” It’s great that we’re reaching out and recognizing that we need help; it’s not great to expect these communities to provide their guidance for free. Offer to pay people for their time.
5. BE ACCOMMODATING.
On a day-to-day basis, be accommodating of the needs of your staff and program participants. Be flexible with employees who celebrate different holidays and may need to take those days off. Consider varying how information is presented to meet different learning needs. Be aware of the language you use (e.g. “disabled” versus “has a disability”). Accommodation moves your practice into action, and sets an example for all of your employees.
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