The Need for Deeper Reflection
How do we celebrate diversity and inclusion in our organizations? What does it mean to really embrace and value difference? And what can we do to create more inclusive workplaces for all employees?
To answer these questions, it’s essential that we take a closer look at our heritage and history observances, or diversity celebrations by month, and the narratives they perpetuate. Are they truly inclusive? Or do they simply check a box, without prompting any deeper reflection or meaningful dialogue?
I believe that it’s time for us to move beyond commemorating history and heritage, and start investing in belonging. Making empathy and inclusion real priorities are the only way to create an environment where all employees feel welcome and valued.
The Narrow Focus of History and Heritage Observances
Too often, diversity celebrations by month are narrowly focused on highlighting the accomplishments of particular individuals, or commemoration of a hard-fought win. While these moments are certainly important, they only tell part of the story of an entire population or community identity. In other instances, the observances are considered by employees as nothing more than paid time off.
These celebrations should be an opportunity to reflect on the past and consider how we can do better now and into the future. We need to think beyond traditional narratives to explore what’s possible when we expand our consciousness and step into the lives of people with identities different from our own.
This is where diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) come in. When done well, DEI initiatives provide a frame for understanding the complexities of identity and creating an inclusive society. They can help us see beyond history and heritage observances to build empathy, gain perspective and prioritize belonging and allyship.
Why We Need to Consider Zooming Out
Too often, we get so bogged down in the details of diversity celebrations that we lose sight of their purpose. Yes, it’s important to commemorate the histories and contributions of communities that represent the global majority. But what’s even more important is to zoom out from these delineated periods of observance to think critically about how we can use them to create a more inclusive society.
So, what are some of the benefits of zooming out? Well, for starters, it can help us move beyond celebrating history and heritage. These celebrations are important, but they often leave out important conversations about belonging and equity.
By zooming out, we can disrupt the status quo and make belonging a priority. We can also think more critically about how we can use history and heritage observances to create a more inclusive society.
So, let’s not get bogged down in the details. Let’s take a step back and think critically about the role of history and heritage observances in creating a more inclusive society.
Reframing Belonging as a Priority in DEI Initiatives
How do we get organizations to think beyond heritage celebrations and reflection months? It starts with you. As HR professionals and DEI directors, it’s important for you to reframe belonging as a priority in DEI initiatives. This means that organizations need to see DEI as more than just a box to check off or a transactional affair.
When we view DEI in this way, we’re able to create more meaningful engagements with marginalized communities. We’re also able to develop a better understanding of what it means to belong in this country. And ultimately, this helps organizations move beyond simply celebrating history and heritage, and toward creating a more inclusive future in the workspace.
Strategies for Moving Beyond Celebrating History and Heritage
So, what can organizations do beyond simply celebrating and acknowledging heritage? To move the needle from transactional recognition to meaningful commitment, there needs to be a shift in thinking.
Organizations need to make a dedicated effort to create authentic relationships with diverse communities. This involves engaging in an ongoing dialog, understanding and responding to the needs of those communities, and fostering an environment in which everyone feels seen, heard and valued.
This can be accomplished through meaningful conversations with members of traditionally underrepresented groups on topics such as their unique experiences and perspectives. It means creating opportunities for skill-building that are accessible and equitable for all employees. To achieve this, organizations should consider hiring inclusivity speakers and workshop facilitators to help engage their leadership and staff.
It also requires organizations to take intentional steps towards creating equitable hiring practices — including forming relationships with schools, businesses and organizations within diverse communities that can help you reach wide audiences of qualified job seekers.
In short: Celebrating history and heritage is crucial, but it’s only the starting point; the real work begins when we strive to create long term authentic relationships with diverse groups — and celebrate their successes both collectively and individually.
Tips for Leading Deeper Reflections on Equity & Inclusion
When it comes to leading deeper reflections on equity and inclusion, here are a few tips that might help.
- First, focus on the stories of individuals and their journeys. Look for stories that go beyond the headline—content that speaks to the nuances and complexities of people’s lives.
- Second, create time and space to share where everyone can contribute their thoughts and feelings around a particular topic. Encourage everyone to come together in dialog instead of a one-way information stream.
- Third, provide an outlet for productive catharsis by encouraging participants to express and release any emotions that may be stirred up during conversations about equity and inclusion.
- And fourth, create follow-up activities or moments for attendees to take actionable steps on what is discussed during the reflections.
Ultimately, these reflections should be viewed as opportunities to inform us all around why creating belonging should be prioritized—it’s not just about checking boxes or transactional DEI initiatives; meaningful action has to play a part in it.
As we reflect on the past and celebrate the progress that has been made, it is also important to remember that there is still so much work to be done. Let’s use this time not only to celebrate where we come from and the uniqueness of our respective ethnicities, but also to set our sights on building a world where everyone feels like they belong.
If you are looking to prioritize inclusivity in the workplace, check out some of the Top Inclusivity Speakers for 2023.
About the author
Kelly Campbell (they/she) is the founder of Consciousness Leaders and an inspiring keynote speaker. They are a Trauma-Informed Conscious Leadership Coach to self-aware visionaries. She writes for Entrepreneur and has written for Forbes. Kelly hosts "THRIVE: Your Agency Resource", a popular podcast for creative leaders. They are the author of "Heal to Lead" (Wiley, 2024), a radical new book on transforming past trauma in order to uncover our innate leadership power.