Many hands come together to symbolize inclusionInclusion as an Everyday Practice: Going Beyond Diversity Trainings

Uber recently released their diversity numbers. Quantitatively, the numbers give us a picture of who makes up the company. Uber’s pledged to address their diversity issues by making changes to their recruitment and hiring systems. However, we’ve also seen reports that give us some qualitative data about the experience of people who are not white men in the company. I’ve been transfixed by the painful reports from women who were unable to fully contribute their brilliance because of a white male-dominated work culture.

Because Uber is sometimes the villain we all love to hate, it’s easy to revel in the schadenfreude. The truth is most companies in Silicon Valley have similar issues, whether it’s in diversity numbers or the lived experience of people of color, women, and other minority groups. The data are symptoms of a larger problem. Diversity is important, and the numbers help hold companies accountable. Additionally, there’s plenty of research that shows that diverse teams are better for innovation and for a company’s bottom line.  

Getting innovative with inclusion

But in order to foster diverse and thriving places to work, companies need to build structures, norms and practices that create a sense of trust and belonging. Only then, will they be able to fully engage, retain and develop all of their employees.  Going to an unconscious bias training does not directly result in all people feeling included (and in fact, can work against it). Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as the center of innovation. However, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we just keep doing the same thing or follow what other companies are doing without conclusive evidence that it’s working.

We know that what we’re doing isn’t working, but are we brave enough to try something new?

The reality is that in order for human and cultural shifts to happen, we need to approach this work with the same tenacity, rigor and discipline as learning a new habit or skill.  Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion is an everyday practice that the community must agree to take on together.

Everyday practices to cultivate inclusion

To explore this idea further, our team experimented with creating group agreements and norms for our meetings and collaborations at the beginning of Q1. We then devoted 5-10 minutes at each meeting to check in on them. Focusing on our ways of working together at every level of interaction created a space for divergent thinking and held us accountable to our intentions for how we want to show up for each other.

Below are 3 examples of the community agreements we made to cultivate an inclusive team culture, inspired and borrowed from the East Bay Meditation Center:

  • Try it on: Be willing to “try on” new ideas or ways of doing things that might not be what you prefer or are familiar with.
  • Move up / Move back: Encourage full participation by all present. If you tend to speak often, consider “moving back” and vice versa.
  • Practice Mindful Listening: Try to avoid planning what to say, be willing to be surprised, learn something new. Listen with your whole self.

Pick one to try at your next meeting and let us know how it goes!  We know that every community is different, so feel free to adapt them for your context.

Want more examples? We’re working on a deck of 21 Mindful Engagement Cards based on our experience facilitating team collaboration and communities of practice across hundreds of groups and organizations.

Each card contains a provocative inquiry question paired with an action connected to 7 research-based practices for cultivating inclusive communities. Send us a message on our contact form if you want us to contact you when they’re ready for the public!   

To experience this in person, join us in San Francisco on April 24 at our “Community of Practice: Structures to Interrupt Exclusion” event with Culture Labx.

–By Emily Schriber

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