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Diversity with Inclusion: More than Numbers

In my previous posts, I built on career development and issues that arise in search of a career. What I would like to hash out now is the introduction of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The adoption of diversity and inclusion is not new. In fact, it has become more popular in how we socialize in the workplace. Some may even decide that it polices behavior.

Others, like myself, see it as a positive influence on the culture of not just the individual but the overall organization.

Cambridge Dictionary defines diversity as,

“the mixture of races and religions that make up a group of people.”

In other words, you cannot have diversity without inclusion.

Many definitions interpret diversity as intertwining in conversation with inclusion, recognizing each individual’s abilities and contribution. Furthermore, it encourages togetherness and belonging.

One of the common situations that come out of trying to understand diversity is perception. By perceiving diversity as a marker of how many individuals of each race you have within a workplace, you easily create friction.

Diversity and inclusion is probably the most interesting yet perplexing program of culture I’ve faced. Having training in diversity and inclusion and civil rights does not merit that someone actually understands adversity and solidarity. Regrettably, we spend so much time highlighting the fact that an individual has training, but never addressing whether they understood the purpose of it.

It is no different from failing a test over and over until finally we remember the answers and recite them back.

A tendency when evaluating diversity is to accompany it with metrics. Recently, I explained to someone why using metrics to introduce the conversation of race and minority was problematic. Diversity and inclusion is meant to teach us to re-evaluate our core beliefs and expand our knowledge base. While it is good to show that we are diverse through numbers, it is important to emphasize it through action and attendance. How many people attended? Has attendance increased remarkably?

So how do we prescribe freedom to our counterparts without having to walk on eggshells? Language. When we were young, we were taught to “think before we talk.” Not a new concept. Similarly, when we speak out or choose to discriminate or hurt, it means that we spent the time and energy with intent. This intention is to take away or reduce someone’s identity so that they no longer feel equal.

The first step in learning a language is through the names we prescribe others.

In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon, a French philosopher, talks about his experience as a doctor. Upon seeing him, people were quick to refer to him as the “black doctor.” Using their rash judgment, they took away his identity as an individual and rendered him absent. The moment that we refer to any one person as part of a percentage for data is the moment we admittedly take away their value.

What I challenge you to consider is the value in culture and knowledge emphasized through your experiences with someone different. By engaging with a variety of people with different beliefs, we learn to approach old situations with a brand, new outlook. 

Nhu-Phuong Duong is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a recent grad with a Master’s of Arts in English and the Humanities. Nhu worked in several non-profit organizations serving the homeless in DC and New York City and currently works as an analyst for the federal government. With two years in her current position, Nhu deploys project management strategies to improve efficiency and efficacy. In her undergrad, Nhu studied English and Philosophy with a track in Performance in Media Studies. Research follows the Baudrillardian studies and the influence of simulation and hyperreality on human interaction in the social and political spaces. In her free time, she attends bluegrass shows and homebrews. You can read her posts here.

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Katie Malone

I couldn’t agree more! When you explained how simply conducting a training seminar doesn’t mean that the employees understand the purpose, it reminded me of how employees are often frontloaded with trainings that blur together without any follow-up. Especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the brand new outlook that you mentioned is necessary.