If we believe equality is simply an initiative in the workplace, then we’re doing something wrong.
Equal treatment of individuals continues to fail in the workplace and wider society because we see it as an action in its own right, rather than an outcome of changing culture. It is not something we do, rather, something we are.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is something we can do to help us get closer to that goal of equal treatment of individuals, without bias. It’s worth asking ourselves if we have ever done any of the following:
If you see something or someone that challenges inclusion, respectfully call out those behaviours with the offender. Don’t leave it for those offended against to complain; they often won’t as they are tired of being the victim and usually don’t want to be singled out.
Distribute challenges to your teams fairly and without opinion-based prejudice. Make it very clear that targets have been assigned based on strengths. If you don’t understand people’s strengths, Gallop Strengthsfinder can help. Don’t fear setting tasks because of others’ opinions on stereotypes – what’s the worst that can happen? You might actually help those less-enlightened lose their bias if they observe success.
Expect (and respect) individuality
It is incredibly rare to find two people with identical combinations of strengths. It’s also something we should encourage in our teams. Strengths are gained throughout life, but are not based on gender. Diversity of strengths are a feature of high-performing teams and should be encouraged. Reward achievement, not conformance.
Think before you speak (or send)
People can make mistakes when in a hurry. A misplaced gender-specific nomenclature, perhaps in a group email, can seem like a minor faux-pas to some, but it can be a punch in the gut to someone who’s spent a lifetime as a minority in their workplace. This isn’t an age/tradition thing; it’s disrespectfully sloppy and can be detected easily by simply reading a message from the recipients’ perspective before you send. I think that’s something we need more of in general – not only to improve inclusion.
I grew up in a mainly female household, as a young brother to two much older sisters. They gave me my first exposure to music, literature and film – not in the genres many people would expect. They taught me a lot, but nothing more important than realising that adversity could be overpowered by knowledge, ambition and hard work. If you didn’t have my luck growing up, the history of science and technology is a perfect lesson in the irrelevance of gender to achievement, even if the path was made unfairly difficult for many.
Finally, our industry
I feel pretty lucky to work for a company (KCOM) which has one of the most gender-balanced boards I’ve worked with in the IT and Telecoms industry. Unfortunately our industry is still widely biased and male-dominated, but thankfully it’s now safe to challenge poor behaviours in the workplace and the mistreated are usually supported by law.
Better still, let’s celebrate what we all gain from inclusion and some take positive action to make work/life better for all.