Shifting for Diversity and Inclusion

Can you recall a time you thought you had a great idea, a creative new approach, but when you shared that idea with others, it was quickly dismissed? When it comes to integrating diverse ideas, this is often the case. 

Diverse ideas typically fall outside of what is expected and sometimes even challenge cultural norms. Recognizing the value of unknown concepts and untapped markets, entrepreneurs seek out this thought diversity because they know it’s good for their bottom line. They call it “Blue Ocean Strategy.” However, not all workplaces recognize the true value of diversity and innovation.

The case for diversity is often made through data-driven reports that demonstrate the economic value lost when organizations fail to include individuals who come from diverse backgrounds. The terms diversity and inclusion are used often as if they’re one and the same and it’s important we understand the difference between these terms.

Diversity is about the “mix” of differences. This mix represents all the differences people in a group or organization have regarding age, gender, race/ethnicity, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic level, belief system, physical/mental ability and more. All these things affect the way individuals evolve and contribute to every area of life, including their professions. 

In recognition that valuing diversity adds significant value, inclusion is about making the “mix” work for everyone within a group or organization. In direct contrast to exclusion, inclusion means to count the excluded as included, to consider all beliefs and opinions to have value, and to create internal workplace cultures that allow individuals from a variety of backgrounds to thrive. When we do this, we create our own “Blue Ocean” society! 

Now is the time for everyone—especially workplaces—to value the reality created by an increasingly diverse population. By 2044, diverse populations (of the non-white race) will account for half of the population. The diverse races, referred to as the minority will become the majority; it makes good business sense to shift now. 

How do you begin better practicing inclusion? You shift. Just like you shifted your lifestyle for your spouse or partner, just like you shifted for your children, just like you shifted into that new role at work. You were open to change and contributed to making the change work for everyone. As a Latina on a majority white staff, shifting myself comes along with the pursuit of success; if I’m going to bring my whole self to work, I also must ask for a reciprocal shift from others.

For example, culturally, I am a native in the view of all things in a collective manner; when I bring my whole self to work; I contribute empathy and creativity to areas of negotiation and problem solving. Professionally, this translates to my being a “collaborative builder.”  The con, however, is I may appear “less confident” or “unable to make decisions decisively or in a timely manner” when evaluated through the white U.S cultural norm of individuality that promotes assertiveness and self-promotion. I’ve learned to shift by augmenting my empathy with assertiveness, willing to put myself in the counter parties’ shoes first and also aiming to achieve a win-win outcome.  

This request to shift from others is not always easy or smooth, but is vital to my performance. There are times when I’ve had to be blunt on the differences of viewpoints and times when I've had to allow situations of differences unfold. Yet, I stand by the universal belief that anyone who cannot bring 100 percent of themselves to work cannot give 100 percent. If I’m asked, or expected, to shift without receiving the same shift in response, then I know I am in a space that doesn’t truly promote diversity and is far from the practice of inclusion. When someone shares diverse ideas with you, be the first to “shift” outside your worldview to really hear, digest and respect what the other person is saying.

You never know the value add or personal development you could be passing up.