I recently received a message on LinkedIn from one of my fantastic male connections. He asked me how he could make a difference to diversity and equality when he isn’t in a leadership position (nor aspires to one) and is a self-described introvert. This gentleman captured perfectly what many people of all genders say to me.
Can I really make a difference?
Using My Privilege
My response never changes. Of course you can make a difference, irrespective of your role, position, gender and perceived influence. When an individual takes a leadership stance on inclusion, diversity, compassion and kindness, there will be a ripple effect. Particularly if you are an individual who has privilege.
I use myself as an example. Even though I am in a minority as a gay woman, I am still privileged. I am white. I am mature. I am educated. I am middle-class and wealthy by global standards. There are doors that are automatically open to me that are closed or very difficult to open for others. So I use my privilege, my power, my influence to pry open doors for those who cannot yet do so themselves.
Do The Maths
What if all 15 million (approx.) adult Australians deliberately and purposefully committed to one-act of inclusion, compassion or kindness every month? (every day would be better!)
15, 000, 000 x 12 = 180, 000, 000
That’s 180M deliberate, purposeful and mindful acts of inclusion, diversity, kindness and compassion per annum. Imagine what a difference that would make?
What Do I Do?
What does an act of inclusion, diversity, compassion and kindness look like? First of all, I recommend you check out Kath Koschel. This is a woman with a compelling story who stopped, thought and started to be kind in a deliberate and systematic way a few years ago. Her movement, The Kindness Factory, has enabled people from all walks of life to be included, feel worthy and like her, to turn their lives around. Kath and the Kindness Factory are a great source of inspiration for me and can be for yo too, to start your journey to making a difference.
Here are 5 relatively simple actions for you to take in life and your workplace, irrespective of where you sit on the leadership ladder:
- Amplify Others Voices: who isn’t getting a turn to speak? Open your eyes and ears at your team meetings and gatherings. Who are the quiet ones? Who might feel excluded because they look different or sound different from the prevailing culture? How are those people being encouraged to contribute their thoughts and ideas? How can you create a safe space for them to speak up?
- 2. Be Aware of Your Bias: I was once asked how I managed to have no bias. My answer was that just because I am a gender diversity expert doesn’t mean I am free from biases and prejudices. Humans are hardwired with bias (in all its forms; race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics or any other group affiliation) and research shows us that humans instinctively and innately judge anyone who is different from us as a threat. This is part evolutionary requirement (controlled by the amygdala) and part influenced by environmental factors (social and cultural experiences) since birth. Make it your personal leadership accountability to build your self-awareness of your own bias.
- Join Others: When I was invited to become Chair of the NAB Disability Committee, I learned quickly about how to think differently and more expansively about who can do what job and how. All human have abilities and inclusive humans recognise that and take action to create safe, inclusive workplaces that enable people to do the work they love. So open your eyes to possibilities and get involved in an employee resource group or inclusion committee. We are always looking for willing and enthusiastic people!
- Be Kind, Every Day: It costs nothing to be kind. It costs nothing to say thank you with a smile. It costs nothing to be nice or to smile at your barista, supermarket worker, parking attendant or someone standing in line with you at the shops. Yes it might feel weird at first to smile at strangers, but it feels good! Did you know that when you commit a random act of kindness, your body releases feel good chemicals that create a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing? So its great for the recipient of your kindness and awesome for your mental health to be nice!
- Ask Questions: If you can see exclusion (deliberate or unconscious) occurring in your workplace, ask why. Ask “why don’t we have more women on the board/executive team/managers group?” or “why don’t we have a LGBTIQ support network at our workplace?” or “why do we schedule meetings or social gatherings at times when parents with caring responsibilities can’t attend?” or “how can we make sure we are being sensitive to the different cultural backgrounds of our colleagues when we plan meetings, social gatherings and events?” Asking questions can lead to action being taken to close inclusion gaps.
One of the many reasons I adore my wife is that she introduced me to random acts of kindness nearly two decades ago. If she sees an elderly lady or ladies having morning tea or lunch, she will often simply go and pay for it, without them knowing. We leave, never knowing what their reaction is, but she knows she has done some good and made someone feel like they are cared for and belong.
We all have the ability to influence a nice, kinder and inclusive world. No matter who you are.
Thank you to my LinkedIn connection, you know who you are. This is for you.
I work with boards, CEO’s and Leaders to create inclusive, kind and high performance workplaces. I’d love to talk to you if you want to move inclusion from conversation to action in your workplace. Contact me here.