Leader play a significant role when it comes to setting the tone for an organizational shift toward more open, effective communication, as well as clear channels for honest feedback, no matter at what level of an organization someone might be. Transparent communication helps alleviate the possibility of division, discrimination, and unconscious bias. It recognizes that there is always room for improvement, that nothing is taken for granted, and that organizational culture is not assumed but expressly discussed.
A leader is uniquely equipped to discuss and implement inclusivity practices and model the standards and expectations for appropriate, respectful behavior in the workplace. Creating a more inclusive environment—in which differences in learning levels, skill sets, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, title, and other qualities that team members bring to the table—is not about getting it perfect. In fact, inclusion is nurtured in a communicative workplace where mistakes are not used to penalize or shame team members, but instead, are held up as valuable lessons for learning. Therefore, it is important for both genders to recognize each of these when they are working together. Moreover, we must consider using a gender-neutral image to avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender, in order to avoid gender discrimination.
Because the typical workplace, in the United States and around the world, is changing all the time, we must be aware of the trends that might be affecting the possibility of inclusivity. Generational turnover, immigration and changing demographics, emerging markets, and advances in technology all create an ecosystem that might serve to create new possibilities, as well as perpetuate barriers to recruiting and developing a diverse pool of talent.
The bottom line is this: Inclusivity helps us create a more collaborative, respectful, and creative work environment that values a mixture of individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors.
Inclusivity can certainly be a tricky principle to cultivate because it entails navigating both visible traits (such as race, gender, age, body type, physical abilities) and invisible traits (such as socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, skills, education). Inclusivity ensures that all individuals in a work environment, regardless of their differences, are treated with fairness and respect, and have equal access to the same opportunities and resources. Inclusivity means that everyone’s unique talents and skills are being recognized, tapped, and accessed to contribute to an organization’s success.
Inclusivity can be challenging, even if you place a priority on it and recognize its benefits, because it may require the kind of deep inquiry and recognition of our differences that can result in dissent or discomfort. However, as a leader, you can see these as opportunities for a more communicative workplace rather than a cause for conflict. You can evaluate your own inclusivity practices from a vantage point of choosing to improve rather than being hindered or discouraged by the places where you might fall short.
You may want to ask yourself the following questions in considering the extent to which you and your organization practice and model inclusivity:
Is every individual who works in, visits, or is served in your workplace treated with respect and equity?
Leadership requires a firm belief in one’s capacity to make good decisions and fuel lasting transformational change. It requires knowing yourself inside and out and capitalizing on your strengths, while acknowledging that there are places you may need to grow and stretch in order to fulfill your vision. leaders must have the confidence to make strong, spontaneous decisions that allow them to conduct meetings with influence and power, communicate candidly, and foster employees’ faith in them and the organization.