Updated: May 21, 2021
People in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) field know that diversity doesn't work without inclusion...but that's often where the consensus ends. While those of us doing DE&I work in organizations know that inclusion matters, there is little agreement on how we define what inclusion is. How do you know inclusion when you see it? How can we operationalize inclusion so it can be properly measured and developed?
When it comes to defining inclusion, I like to say:
Diversity is how we see each other
Inclusion is how we treat each other
In other words, diversity comprises of the characteristics that define who we are. Whereas inclusion are the BEHAVIORS we use to make others feel valued, respected, seen and heard.
Inclusive behaviors can be further broken down in three broad categories, ordered by maturity, with the most advanced being allyship behaviors that require some level of risk or altruism on the part of the ally.
What I love about defining inclusion at the behavioral-level is that it empowers individuals to be inclusive in their everyday interactions with others. As long as there is at least one other human around, there is always an opportunity to act inclusively.
Everyday inclusive behaviors are not elusive or difficult to implement. Many are basic manners and Golden-rule-type interactions we learned when we were kids. Sadly, many adults have FORGOTTEN how to play nice with others though, a phenomenon no doubt stoked by social media and left to run rampant in toxic workplace cultures.
Fortunately, when we define inclusion at the behavioral-level, we can more effectively train and develop these behaviors in others. Moreover, you can't manage what you don't measure, which is why tracking the frequency and use of inclusive workplace behaviors is so important to advancing DE&I efforts.
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