Diversity and inclusion is an obligatory topic in leadership courses now. Sometimes it's the primary focus of a workshop. Sometimes it's called diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
But what makes it a real experience rather than a well-meaning phrase? What can leaders and co-workers say and do to create and maintain an inclusive environment?
Last week I had groups of people responding to scenarios that demanded they think about the diversity within their organisation, and the inclusiveness of policy and procedures. The responses were thoughtful and insightful; I've no doubt they would increase diversity, promote inclusion, and engender belonging.
And at lunch time I issued a photo challenge: capture images that show diversity and inclusion in practice.
The inspiration for this challenge came from a study that shows women's motivation to study topics or join workplaces was affected by the presence of masculine objects in the study or work environment (see link below).
We went city-wide for the workshop exercise. One person thought about Wellington's stadium as a place that brings people together for shared experiences, whether sporting or cultural. Another captured parliament grounds, where people eat lunch, protest, and use the playground. Another came back inside with an auditory snapshot: the announcements in the building elevators are in te reo Māori and English. We saw te reo Māori in the streets too, including on these recycling bins.
I've kept the exercise going for myself to understand the elements of an inclusive environment. I saw the experience of people living with cancer in street art. The rainbow lights in the cable car tunnel have special meaning in Pride month, and our food and drink choices reflect diversity.
What signs and cues do staff and visitors get in your workplace? Whose faces are framed on the walls? What languages are used in signs and greetings? How evident is the organisation's commitment to accessibility? Who is being excluded?