Harnessing Individual Strengths: How We Can Personally And Collectively Foster Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Creating an inclusive and respectful environment requires persistence and collaboration from all members of the community or workspace.
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I recently came back from a week's vacation to Ayia Napa in Cyprus. One thing I always appreciate and value when I go away is the chance to embrace a new culture, a chance to mix with locals, and see how other people live and interact. One of my favorite things to do when I travel abroad is to try a new restaurant each night. It was on this trip that I really noticed restaurants blending a commitment to culture, while also employing a diverse workforce.
Shortly after this trip, I witnessed diversity in the workplace again. During my food shop at the local supermarket, I noticed an employee communicating through a sign language interpreter. This man was deaf, and I loved the fact that this supermarket had rightfully given this man a chance to work and contribute. Further, they had taken steps to create a space where he could communicate via a translator, uninhibited, and able to work just like anyone else.
We all have a responsibility to make sure we are creating an opportunity for all. This is not just a personal belief or even a moral concept; it's what is right. While much has been done, more effort is needed to ensure everyone has a voice, feels seen and heard, and has equal access and opportunity to be involved regardless of age, race, gender, creed, or religion. Our differences are what give us our own unique value and perspectives, and collectively, it is what makes our communities, workplaces, and world stronger.
I wanted to dive deeper into how we can all take responsibility and action to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our communities and our workplaces, and Danielle Baron was the woman to talk to. Danielle has dedicated her business and her personal endeavors to this subject. As "a fairness and equality entrepreneur," Baron is passionate about dismantling stereotypes, and cultivating equal treatment for women and children. She serves as an educator, mentor, therapist, and coach. Additionally, her business, DIVEINC, aims to promote and foster inclusion within both educational and corporate settings.
Excerpts from a conversation with Baron:
What are some of the initiatives you've led to help bring more awareness and consciousness to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Breaking free from stereotypes is a pivotal aspect of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. I initially shattered these stereotypes as a single parent, simultaneously caring for my children and cultivating a six-figure business- an uncommon feat prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In my educational enterprise, I advocate for personalized learning, providing assistance to children with neurodivergence. Considering the unique ways these children learn and process information is of paramount importance, given that one in every five children is neurodivergent.
My latest project, DIVEINC, is dedicated to aiding corporations and educational institutions in embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, highlighting the need for heightened awareness in these areas. This year, I have been named a finalist for seven awards, notably in the entrepreneurial sphere, but dovetailing this with the Miss Great Britain brand by serving as a 2023 Ms. Great Britain Finalist, promoting increased diversity and inclusivity. I am challenging stereotypes.
Where is it that you draw empathy from? Has part of your mission been derived from any unjust treatment or unfairness in your own life?
Single or new mothers face significant challenges in the workforce, and when attempting to secure a mortgage or rental, and it's unjust to subject them to penalties for their circumstances. I am an active member of the Single Mum Business network, led by Jules Hawkins, who, driven by her firsthand struggles, is actively working to address these issues. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a woman from the wine industry, who shared that returning to work after having a baby is extremely difficult due to the attached stigma. I was truly taken aback by this revelation, and it further underscores the need for legal changes to support single mothers.
Drawing from my own experiences as an educator in schools, I have observed instances where I faced unfair treatment, particularly when I became a new mother, or was expecting a child. New mothers often find themselves excluded from opportunities for professional growth, leadership positions, and the chance to maintain a balanced work-life dynamic that allows them to care for their children. As new mothers, we're expected to give significantly more than 100%, which was certainly the case for me during the early stages, and it was undeniably challenging.
Danielle Baron, founder of DIVEINC. Source: Danielle Baron
Parts of society still don't see the importance of DEI. How can we collectively make a change to people's perceptions?
To promote a shift in societal perceptions towards DEI, we must first prioritize education and awareness. Engaging in open dialogues, workshops, and media campaigns can help disseminate information about the benefits and significance of DEI. Additionally, showcasing real-world success stories and concrete examples of how diversity strengthens communities can help organizations create a more relatable narrative. Fostering inclusive environments within institutions, workplaces, and educational settings will demonstrate the positive outcomes of embracing DEI principles. It is also paramount to encourage empathetic conversations that highlight the shared human experiences- underlying the importance of DEI can foster empathy and understanding among individuals.
How can we better understand the needs and perspectives of colleagues and work mates from different backgrounds?
The key, in my opinion, lies in refraining from assuming a complete understanding of others. A multitude of individuals, including those who are neurodivergent or are unaware of their neurodivergence, often face being misconstrued. It is of utmost importance to allocate time for active listening. I frequently advocate the concept that we are equipped with two ears and one mouth for a reason. My perspective is that each person possesses unique strengths, and we must focus on harnessing these strengths for every individual to elicit the best outcomes from our workforce. This approach characterizes workplaces that are both highly productive and conducive to happiness.
If we witness inequality in our community or workspace, what is your wisdom and experience in addressing the situation?
Addressing inequality requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. First, remain calm and composed, ensuring that your emotions don't escalate the situation. Privately engage the individual responsible, expressing your concerns in a respectful and non-confrontational manner, using "I" statements to communicate your perspective. Encourage open dialogue to foster understanding, and create a safe space for discussion. If the behavior persists, consider involving a supervisor, HR department, or higher authority, providing documented instances and potential solutions to address the issue. Remember, creating an inclusive and respectful environment requires persistence and collaboration from all members of the community or workspace. It is unacceptable, but it is also a matter of reeducating people.