Diversity & Inclusion in real life – where to start?

By now almost everyone has heard about it somewhere… this new trending topic of “Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace”….. even here in Germany. But there are still so many misconceptions about what it really means.

I myself didn’t really know what it encompasses more than one year ago. Back then I joined the LEAD Network Europe and it opened my eyes. It felt a bit like my first journey abroad, when I saw the ocean for the first time. You can’t imagine the ocean or understand its vastness and depth – until you’ve stood knee-deep in it. Once I did, I knew deep in my heart that I had just fallen in love with it utterly and decided to dive right in.

When I participated in the #LEADNetwork17 conference last year, it was just like that. In is essence, diveristy & inclusion means treating all people in the same way and in a fair way.

Not only equally but also according to their individual needs and – most importantly – as part of the whole not standing outside the fence!

That as such has always been something that defined me. I don’t yet know when or where it originated, but even as a kid I was ready to take on the bullies in favour of the outsider (and did too, quite successfully I might say).

Maybe I owe it to the dark history of my country and the fact that my generation was raised with a constant mantra to feel ashamed for a past in which we had not even been alive yet, but that was still so fresh in our grandparent’s minds that they made it a point to teach us never to repeat their mistakes. Never buy into any philosophy that separates people and puts them on different levels. At least my grandparents did.

Maybe I owe this to the negative example of my father. Coming from a very poor childhood, he worked hard to become very rich and henceforth treated everybody in a lower social standing (in his eyes) with disdain, saying things like “If he had learned a proper job he wouldn’t need to clean up after me.” and worse things. That always made me feel ashamed for him, compassionate for whoever he had tread on and very angry about the injustice of it. But it was the 90ties and nobody cared. For most it was even ok. Thankfully, times have changed!

So I started learning about what it means, I got involved in the LEAD Network Europe, took on a volunteer position there. But it was only during this year’s #LEADNetwork18 conference on the 15th/16th of November that I had another major eye-opening moment.

I was fortunate enough to really talk with some amazing people, trailblazers and leaders in Diversity & Inclusion and these conversations, their stories deeply moved me. It was this magic moment, when a hundred of different puzzle pieces suddenly come together to form the most beautiful picture that you always knew would show up eventually, you just didn’t know how it would look like.

I knew one day in the long-term future I want to work in Diversity & Inclusion as well. I already know how wonderful it feels to turn your hobby into your job. How much more wonderful will it feel to turn the essence of who I am into my job?

But where to start? Which part of the ocean to discover or uncover first? I’ve learned already a lot since the last conference in 2017, but now it’s time to dig deeper. Start… at the bottom?

In psychology water is a symbol for the unconscious, our deep emotions, the part of our psyche that sends us our dreams at night. So why not start with unconscious bias.
Like any good digitized online junkie, I searched for it on Amazon, and the search reasult blew my socks off:

All my digital tools are constantly confused by my language choices. I am German, sitting in Germany, yet all I search for, read and buy is in English. How dare I? It’s not easy to handle for those poor cloud services.

Here it comes though: The German literal translation of the two words “versteckte” and “Klinge” are: “hidden blade”

Hence why Assassins Creed showed up as the first result (he has a lot of hidden blades on him). I don’t fault Amazon, they have a really tough time with me.

But on another level – I was struck by how true and on the spot this mishap really was!

I do wholeheartedly agree with Alexa, that unconscious bias is indeed just like a hidden blade. Hidden not only from the one into whom you plunge it unknowingly, but also hidden from yourself!

There is little worse than unwantingly and unconsciously plunge a knife into somebody else with your words. I know this all too well, I’m a saggitarius and we really do always hit the bulls eye, believe me!

We all have unconcious bias in us, indeed we were all born with it as human beings. You don’t believe me? Watch this eye-opening vid “Born good? Babies help unlock the origins of morality”

(I found this video thanks to James Wright, Senior Manager for Diversity and Inclusion. Thank you)

So we know we all have it, but if it stays unconcisous we will keep plunging that blade…

Thankfully there is a series of ways, tools and tricks on how to bring something unconcious into our consciousness where we can tackle it and decide – Hey, I’m bigger than that. Ironically some of them have their origin in the spiritual hype of the 00 years.
Hold on a sec… was there some unconscious bias just there?

If, in the process you happen to uncover a few more things about you that you were previously not aware of – don’t be afraid. They might seem frightening at first, but by uncovering them you have already made the first step into overcoming them.

And that is after all what personal growth is all about. Just as going on this discovery journey of unconcious bias is about a lot more than “just” diversity and inclusion.

I believe it’s a good way to start. It’s one of those journeys that never end anyhow, but are still amazing, exciting and extremely rewarding to be on!

(Source: James Wright’s article “5 things to know before you are building a career in Diversity and Inclusion

 

 

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