The Challenge of Inclusion

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.” – Earl Nightingale

Over the months of my involvement with the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN), I have discovered that I have a true passion for inclusion. I will never claim to be an expert on “all things inclusion”, but it deeply resonates with me, because life has taught me what it is like to be different, to not belong, to be explicitly excluded. Thus, I genuinely believe in the concept, and I would like to promote it within my organization as well as in my personal life.

  1. Definition of inclusion

The first problem with the concept of inclusion is the fact that most people do not have a clear idea of what authentic inclusion looks like. The dictionary definition of inclusion is “the action or state of including or of being included within a group of structure”. True to this simplified definition we often see the simplified approach to solving the inclusion dilemma. For example, some may believe that if a company has the same number of female executives as male or equal parts of whites and minority representatives on the board of directors, than the company must be inclusive. However, inclusion is much more than that.

  1. What inclusion means to me

In reality, inclusion does not equal “equality”. I define inclusion as “acceptance”. To be truly inclusive we have to recognize that none of us is an exact copy of another – we are all unique and uniquely beautiful. Inclusion means that we accept those differences, that we accept each other’s individuality, that we do not judge. Inclusion means that we not only give everyone a sit at the table, but also make it rightful for everyone to own their voice. Inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their views and opinions, an environment where we do not discount their input or intentions, an environment where we move away from biases and stereotypes and allow everyone to be their true selves.

  1. The benefits of inclusion

The benefits of inclusive environments and inclusive leadership are tremendous and have been extensively discussed in the media. But even without the extensive research and statistics at your fingertips it is a no brainer. First of all, creating an environment of inclusion within an organization translates into more engaged employees. In turn, engaged employees mean increased motivation, improved productivity, and lower turnover. In addition, understanding and accepting the differences in employees will help companies understand and better relate to their customer base. Which means better goods and services for all of us.

The bottom line is the demographic composition of the world’s population is changing. The companies have to accept that and ensure that their business model and strategy supports the change and fits into that new world. Not only to be able to serve the needs of their markets and target customers, but also to attract and retain the most talented workforce.

  1. My inclusion vision

I would like to improve the understanding of the concept of inclusion and foster the buy-in in everyone – from a homeless on Skid Row to The President in the White House. As an inclusion champion, I would like to make an impact on the world (or at least my world). My ultimate goal is to make sure that everyone understands that the equality of numbers is not enough to create inclusion. To create inclusive culture we need to change the environment to support the change in the thought process and people’s perceptions. We need to change the mindsets to the point that people do not even have to think about it, to make inclusion part of our everyday lives, to make inclusion our second nature.

What does “inclusion” mean to you?

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