Diversity v. Inclusion. What are they? Aren’t they the same thing? Personally, I would have to say no. Diversity, to me, looks like a workplace where people of different creeds, colours, race, religion, sexual orientation, ability and gender are represented. Management decide who is hired and is a part of the team. That is how a diverse workplace is created, but this does not ensure that employees feel a sense of inclusion.
In the workplace I consider myself a minority. I am a South Asian woman and I am an immigrant. I moved to Canada as a child, so many people find it difficult to believe that English is not my first language. I have heard many stories of people struggling to feel accepted in their workplace, but I have never really felt such an experience. Throughout my 11 years in the workforce I have worked in a variety of areas; childcare, mental health and most recently, legal services. In my experience, people have been inclusive, curious and kind. I have been asked numerous questions about my background and culture. Some questions were funny, “So….what is underneath the turban that men wear?” and some were serious, “How do you plan on raising your children since you and your husband are two different religions?” (I am Hindu and he is Sikh). Personal experiences have shown me people are sometimes unaware of my cultural background and beliefs, but are more curious than anything else. I have been honest and open and have tried to answer questions to the best of my ability and usually the response I’ve received from my colleagues is, “Wow, that’s neat and different”. The more open and honest I have been with my colleagues, the more comfortable they feeling asking me questions and expressing their feelings. This openness and candor has allowed me to experience a sense of inclusion in the workplace.
An employer decides who to hire and that is how a diverse workplace is built. But inclusion depends on more than just who is hired. Employees have to be open and comfortable with themselves and their background and colleges in the work place must be respectful and open to listening. All parties must feel heard and respected only then can an environment of diversity be sustained. In a global world all colours, creeds, backgrounds and races are interacting with each other on a daily basis. Inclusion in the workplace comes into fruition when respect and openness are a part of a working environment.
This article was contributed by volunteer blogger Parul Datta.