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“A Point Of Difference” or “How I’m Failing At Diversity and Inclusion”


By Brynne Humphreys – Vice President of Client Services

Recently, a colleague of mine put some thoughts down on why driving inclusion minimizes risk.  It got me thinking and organizing my own thoughts around this tip-of-the-iceberg-floating-in-the-melting-polar-ice-caps (haha, Deniers!) centered-in-the-giant-expanse-of-the-world topic.

My name is Brynne and I’ve been failing at Diversity and Inclusion.  

Here’s how:

We’re a fairly small group –  about 10 people who work on our Client Service team.  We’ve established our roles and patterns about as well as you can –  I know who to go for and for what kind of thing.  I can delegate efficiently and effectively and I have every confidence that the job will get done well.  I’ve hired some great people (if I do say so myself) and I’ve looked for specific, non-resume qualities in them that have made them a great fit for our team.

And with all of these best-intentioned behaviors, I have been about as non-inclusive as it gets.

A light bulb has been going off for me over the past months (and isn’t that the best kind of lightbulb?  The kind that warms up to a bright light instead of snapping on in an instant?).  Inclusion isn’t just about ‘making a seat at the table’ for differences in your team – inclusion is about diversifying your own process and patterns because you aren’t the center of the fu*%&ing universe.  

Is that harsh?  Probably!

Truly, though – this notion has got me so in my feelings that I’m actively hating the word “Diversity”, at least the way many folks use it.   Follow me on this:  Many people use the term “Diversity” when what they really mean is “Multicultural”.  Diversity means (literally) “A point of difference”.

A point of difference.  

Isn’t that sort of wonderful?  

But we tend to use the term “Diversity” in the corporate setting to mean specifically non-white.  Which implies that white people are the center of the (fu*%&ing) universe and that we should ‘diversify’ around them.

Two problems with that:*

Problem 1) Diversity is more than skin deep.  Multicultural is an element of diversity.   (and, by the way, there are more cultures than black/white).

Problem 2) Inclusion doesn’t mean ‘seat at the table’.  It means that you build the table from points of difference.  It means a gd potluck dinner made of differences.

So how was I failing with my team?  Two major ways spring to mind (though I’m certain my team would happily fill in more):

By hiring people that I “saw myself in” I was actively looking for commonalities to make me more comfortable.  We know that having the same alma mater as a hiring manager is a great leg up.  We are trained that it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.  When was the last time you made an effort to find someone with differences from you or others on your team?  Not just skin deep differences (but yes to those) but experience differences, POV differences, background differences, etc?   Of course we must trust our intuition in hiring situations — and we can challenge ourselves to look for things that break our own patterns.  Let’s have a potluck.

By continuing to go to my team in well-worn patterns, I’m not diversifying my versions of people.  I think “Mark is great at this kind of project and it is right in his wheelhouse!  Perfect!”.  That doesn’t allow Mark room to work on new and different things..  And it certainly doesn’t allow Christine an opportunity to grow or show what she can do.  Having “go-to” folks on the team was not a badge of honor – it was a symbol of my non-inclusive habits.  Diversity of thought and behavior is key to fostering inclusive teams.

Taking suggestions now:  What is “A Point of Difference” that you bring to your team?

Become others-focused to see another POV,  D&I,  I don't want to make the wrong move on D&I


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