Diversity is all the rage. It’s what everyone in society and business is talking about. But what does that mean? And what does that look like in practice, when there is action behind it?
For me, it was acknowledging that at times some of us carry what is going on in the world around us into the office. The most recent example — the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many of us watched the events unfold in the news and on social media that weekend and then had to return to work a couple of days later.
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While it may seem taboo to some to make water-cooler talk a companywide discussion, it’s necessary. Inclusion-based initiatives require us to step out of our comfort zones and create an environment to have the thoughtful dialogue that for too long have been avoided in the workplace.
The days of no politics, religion, or social issues at work must be put behind us. Agencies who do this well encourage and foster safe spaces for employees to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences following events that may directly or indirectly impact them. One way in which this can be done is through an open mic session, providing an outlet for us to have constructive dialogue and express ourselves as people — not just employees of an organization. It’s also an educational opportunity for others to hear different perspectives, empathize, and respect each other on another level. This is diversity and inclusion in action.
I am encouraged and inspired by all of the great work that is being done in our industry as it relates to diversity. But I think we are just scratching the surface.
My challenge to the leaders of our agencies is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Ask the difficult and provocative questions. Lean in. Listen. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords. It is about fostering a space for understanding, not necessarily taking in other views as your own. It is about doing what’s right and doing our part to effect change not only in our industry and in our work, but also in the world around us.
Latesha Williams-Flynn is EVP and managing director at Concentric Health Experience. She leads the agency’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.