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Equality is not enough!

Yesterday, Anne and I attended a conference where one of the speakers was talking about Diversity and Inclusion, a subject that is on everyone’s mind, particularly in industries that are male dominated.

Anne was very excited to hear how he addressed the issue along with a panel of experts. “This is the best explanation I have seen!” she exclaimed.

“It's going to take more than Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment to create truly inclusive workplaces!

"When we offer equal opportunities to women, aboriginal/indigenous people, people with disabilities, diverse ethnic heritage, people of different ages, and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, in an industry that has always been male dominated, like the transportation industry, we let them into a workplace like the one in the image.

"As you can see all three people have been given a box to stand on, equal treatment to help them achieve their goal of watching the game. The tall male doesn't need a box to see over the fence and the fence still blocks the view of shorter people. The fence is symbolic of the systemic barriers that prevent some people from achieving their goals, despite equal treatment.

“In the second image you can see that accommodations have been made to ensure equitable treatment. Shorter people can see over the fence and watch the game, but the barrier of the fence is still in place.

“In the trucking industry, accommodations to treat people equitably included modifying the cab of the trucks for shorter people, installing pet kennels for people who traveled with their pets, installing alarm systems so women would feel safe when parking overnight. Trucking companies also lobbied the Truck Stops to provide clean, safe, accessible washrooms for women and non-binary people.

“The third image represents the goal we should all be aiming for; justice in the workplace where barriers are removed completely so no accommodations are needed.

“The speaker told a story about their internal employee recognition program which was open to all employees (equality).

"In the beginning, the only nominations came from the sales team who were accustomed to competing. What leaders did not realize is that systemic barriers were preventing employees working in production, shipping, and administration, as well as their drivers, from being nominated.

“To make the competition more equitable, leadership created multiple awards to ensure that employees in all departments could participate. While this helped somewhat, the number of nominations was disappointing.

“When employees were asked why they did not nominate or enter the competition, they said they did not understand the criteria and even if they did understand the criteria, they were not confident they could stand in front of their coworkers and speak in English.

“The leaders were embarrassed that they had not made accommodation, made the competition more inclusive, by translating the invitation, the contest criteria, the submission form so that all employees could access these materials in their preferred language. Recognition plaques were also produced in multiple languages.

"They did not stop there; they brought justice to the system by providing simultaneous translation during the recognition meeting. Speakers (award recipients) could speak in their preferred language and those who did not speak that language would listen to the interpreter. No one had to be concerned about not understanding the language!

“So, you see, by removing the systemic barriers of language and exclusivity, the company was able to make the competition “just” and inclusive for all employees.

“As leaders, we all need to be aware of, and on the lookout, for these types of systemic barriers in our own organizations!”

In a world where we are seeking equality, equity and justice, a world where we truly welcome and include people with diverse approaches, we must be prepared; prepared BEFORE we encounter, or unintentionally inflict, unjust treatment!

How are you preparing your organization to be diverse and inclusive?

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