Leveraging a dynamic view of self to be a more inclusive organization
As people, we often view our attributes and character as fixed: I am smart, I am a good person, I am inclusive. The same can apply to organizations and often show up in the form of defined company values. This static view offers a sense of security and direction, but it can also be limiting. A more productive approach is that of a growth mindset. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck explains, “[with a] growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Following last summer’s resurgence in social justice movements across the US, coupled with seemingly endless time for introspection as we were confined to our homes due to the spread of COVID-19, individuals and companies alike experienced a reckoning around topics of diversity and inclusion. Many of us were coming to terms with how we have upheld systems of discrimination and oppression. This was no different from my personal experience and that of Audienz as a team.
At Audienz, diversity and inclusion have long been inherent to our culture and values—part of who we are. But the events of last summer shifted the way we thought about and discussed diversity and inclusion as a team. Instead of believing the ways we had always fostered diversity and inclusion were the best for us, we looked at them through the lens of a growth mindset and how we could learn from missteps and do better. We no longer just considered how discrimination and exclusion showed up in the workplace, but how it impacts our team outside of work, the historic context behind systems of oppression, and whether we were still heading in the right direction. One outcome for us was re-centering our conversation on equity. At Audienz, we believe that without equity we cannot have inclusion, and without inclusion we cannot have the brilliant, passionate, distinct, and generally awesome team that makes working at Audienz a joy! However, if it was not for our growth mindset as a company, we may not have come to this conclusion in the first place.
For many individuals and organizations, these topics can be difficult to discuss for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Or even fear that introspection and discussion may reveal competing views of who we think we are. The way we reframe it at Audienz is that the impact of doing nothing in this arena is worse than not trying. We recognize that missteps provide opportunities to learn and grow. At Audienz, we know we still have work to do, but we’re glad to be growing in the right direction. No matter where you are as an individual or organization in your journey to be more inclusive, here are a few steps to get started:
- Accept that we all come with biases and/or ways in which we may have upheld systems of exclusion and oppression.
- Recognize that you have the power to change your unconscious biases, exclusionary habits, and/or ways in which you’ve upheld systems of exclusion and oppression through dedication and hard work (growth mindset).
- Educate yourself on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. A good place to start is learning about unconscious bias and allyship—there are a wealth of articles, books, videos, podcasts at our fingertips via the World Wide Web. Some of my favorites geared toward conversations on race:
- Take accountability and recognize the difference between impact and intent. Many of us have good intentions in our journeys to be more inclusive, but the things we say and do may have unintended consequences. If you do something that causes harm, take ownership, and learn from it (growth mindset again)!
- Rinse and repeat. “Doing the work” is a journey, not an end point, and thus requires continuous reflection, education, discussion, and action.
Final note, particularly for my aspiring allies and accomplices: as we start to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life and there’s less forced time for introspection and self-education, remember that not everyone has the privilege to de-prioritize these issues because they impact life every day. But we have the power and ability to uplift our colleagues, friends, loved ones—together, we can push forward change in our communities and organizations for a more inclusive and equitable world. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worthwhile.