No matter your position at work it can be challenging to have productive conversations on race, gender, and other aspects of identity. However, diversity and inclusion are increasingly important topics in the workplace. To contribute to your team’s diversity efforts, you could start by reading and listening to different ideas and perspectives. In this article, we will be discussing ways you can take a proactive role in helping to cultivate inclusive teams and create opportunities for healthy conversations.
Often, the biggest issue for most when tackling the challenge of exploring sensitive topics, such as race, is how to get started. Discovering interesting books could make it easier to open up about the topics that you normally would not talk about. Due to our current national conversation, many companies and organizations are starting peer-led book clubs. Finding books from authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates or Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor creates an opportunity to exchange ideas with coworkers in a safe environment. If you are looking for company models that are currently holding book clubs you can look to Panera Bread’s Westport Book Club. They are currently reading Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Race” they can be contacted through meetup.com. There are a few ways you can find your own local book clubs such as the library, YMCA, and local bookstores.
Many companies and organizations encourage diversity by offering a variety of affinity groups. Joining or creating an identity-based group will allow you to interact with people from different departments over a shared topic of interest. If you are able to be a part of a group, explore ways that you can take an active role in hosting events or leading discussions on what your group represents. Make sure to state at the beginning of each meeting that this is a safe and respectful space so that others will be encouraged to speak up. If you are interested in learning more, check out the article by the Muse on “How to Start an Employee Resource Affinity Group.”
Community Service Activities
An excellent way for company members to come together for a common goal is through helping others. There is a large array of activities that can be accessible for all members at work to try. For instance, organizing a workplace food drive is a great way to help the local community. Connecticut has recently become one of the many states across the south and east coast that has suffered from Hurricane Isaias. Another idea is to organize a community clean up after a natural disaster. There are also many ways for teams to safely remotely for social justice organizations. Check out our recent post on virtual volunteering.
In conclusion, we have to always strive to keep moving forward whether that is having conversations or confronting one’s own biases. The moment we feel too uncomfortable to be honest with others is when we lose the opportunity to have real dialogue that can improve our communities. I would like to end this article with a quote from James Baldwin who reminded us that, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”