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Five Tips to Embrace Diversity and Inclusion in Your Life

Why do major companies, like Ericsson, strive to increase diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace and figures are not immediately moving? What is taking so long? Being actively involved in Ericsson’s D&I Program since 2014, I realize that not having enough D&I at work place is actually a result, rather than just a situation we have to deal with. Let me explain what I mean and then I will give a list of practical suggestions that you could apply in your daily life to do your part to change this result.

Fatma
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In the ways most of us have been brought up we end up trusting the people who look, think, dress, act like us and have a second thought when we meet someone who is different than us. Don’t you have a slight hesitation when you are pushed a bit out of your comfort zone? A tingling feeling about the unknown, the different? The moment that, if you had the opportunity to step back, you would definitely do so. I think it is a collection of the moments where we step back what creates a work environment which is not as diverse and inclusive as it could be. Let me give an example. Assume you are hiring and you have a CV of a candidate from your own school and another one from another school. Would you agree if I say seeing your own school name on the CV makes you go “mmm…potentially a good one,” even without meeting the candidates? Now, if this sounds familiar to you I have good news. It is so for most us, you are normal! And this is not only at work place, it is actually everywhere in our life.  And I believe if we practice being neutral to the familiar as well as to the unknown in our daily life, it will eventually be easier to do it at work. And collection of these moments will create a more diverse and inclusive working environment.

It might look like a big step to take to be immediately inclusive to the different people at work, but I think if we exercise enough in safe environments, it may become a habit and eventually we may do it at work without recognizing. So, here comes my list.

1. Diversity and Inclusion Among Your Friends

Let’s start with the safest zone, your friends! Now scan your friends. Are they mostly similar in a way, like most of them being from your childhood, or same school, or same nationality or with same political views? Now envision yourself throughout the years how you have been selecting them. What types of people did you leave out? Most probably were good decisions and they protected you from some harm at the time. But might it be that this situation is not valid anymore and you keep to your decision patterns from the past? Next time could you give a bit more chance, meaning maybe a bit more conversation with or listening more to the people with whom you would normally not? Who knows maybe it brings more perspective, more wisdom to you, or maybe even a friend.

2. Diversity and Inclusion in Holidays

Now this is two-fold for me. First, is regarding the holiday location. I think this is a superb opportunity to exercise D&I in your life. In the end it is a limited time in a controlled environment to be exposed to the other cultures, people, living styles. If you have a tendency to choose similar holiday locations, can you try a different one next time? Maybe a place where the language is different than yours. Can you think of one? For me, this happened last year when I went to Greece. Greek alphabet and language is nothing like English or Turkish (my mother tongue). So, I was clueless on what was written on the labels, menus, what people said, what was on the news, newspapers. It was like having all the voices in my mind (and all the filters) suddenly shut off! This enabled me to go the basics. Observe more without making any assumptions, see people around me as they are, rather than immediately building my opinions about them.

Second, is regarding our daily habits versus the opportunity we have during our holidays. Can you see yourself resisting the different, even if you know it is for a limited time? Next time when you find yourself complaining, criticizing, or comparing, just let this thought pass your mind and try to experience what is there at that moment. In the end, even if you don’t like it, you will see it won’t kill you, but it may help you increase your tolerance to other cultures.

3. Diversity and Inclusion in Shopping

Do you find yourself shopping from the same brand or shop because you like their style? Again, your next shopping trip could be your opportunity to try something new. Would it hurt to go into one shop you never step in? Even if you do not buy anything from it, could you observe the people shopping there and imagine what might be attracting them? Who knows, maybe one piece will attract you, too, and you will embrace a different thing in your collection of possessions.

4. Diversity and Inclusion in Your Community

Certain preferences made you choose to live in a certain location, within a certain community. Does anything get your attention which does not fit in the mainstream? Would you consider supporting it or giving it a chance? Maybe a small start-up bakery in your street, maybe an elderly person looking for a walking buddy. For me, this is the School for Blind People in my neighborhood. The school has a small massage clinic where the graduates provide massage. To support the diversity they are bringing to our community I started going there instead of a spa. After three years, I can tell that my massage therapist brings me a totally different vision than most of my friends. She also works at a primary school; what an amazing person she is!

5. Add One Activity to Your Life Where You Meet Different People

My list could go forever, but I wanted to finish with an invitation for a new thought. Would you consider making the choice of adding one activity to your life which ensures you meet people different than you? It is best that it is not related to your profession or your favorite sports. These may look safe but usually attract similar people. Without raising your expectations can you start observing what people do and say. What brought them there? You may hear things you have never heard before. Being part of such activities helped me a lot to have a balanced life and to keep my distance to the familiar as well as awakening my interest to hear the opinions of people different than me. During the course of last fifteen years I have been attending to yoga classes, a doula training, diction workshops, cooking classes and this year I started an Ayurveda School to keep me in touch with a diverse group of people.

Can you think of any other opportunities in your daily life to welcome diversity and open space for the different? Share with us.

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