The last year has been a tumultuous and heart-wrenching time for many of us. Between COVID-19, pivoting abruptly to working remotely and the ongoing racial injustice crisis, we have faced a seemingly endless procession of inclusion challenges.
For those of us committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to cultivating inclusive workplaces, it has been particularly difficult, and on a personal note, I have struggled — both as a woman of color and as an inclusion professional — to reconcile the complicated range of feelings I’ve experienced during this time.
So when I recently received an inquiry asking, “As someone who is dedicated to being inclusive, what can I do going forward into the New Year?” I decided to share my thoughts on how we can keep the momentum going on addressing the inclusion challenges of the past year.
Here are five of the strategies we can all focus on as leaders, team members and allies in order to keep pushing for a more inclusive world.
1. Talk About Unconscious — and Conscious! — Bias
Many of us have spent time focusing on addressing unconscious bias in our workplaces, but from what we have seen recently, we know that conscious biases are a very real part of many individuals’ experiences, including in the workplace. It’s critical to integrate this reality into the dialogue and to begin tackling both unconscious and conscious biases head-on in our DEI discussions.
2. Address Discomfort with Differences
Recent events have highlighted the profound need to focus on recognizing differences and acknowledging the discomfort with them that is present in our society. Minimization, the tendency to push differences down in favor of sameness and conformity, is the key barrier to building more culturally competent and inclusive workplace cultures. A critical step here is to learn about cultural identities in order to interrupt your discomfort.
3. Share Your Experiences
For those of us who continue to experience oppression (BIPOC, women, immigrants, religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ communities and more) it is critical that we share our experiences. Our firsthand stories are powerful and eye-opening in sharing the truth of our experiences. And in doing so, we create space for collective support and solidarity.
4. Speak Out
If you are a person who has heightened supremacy, power and privilege (and we all do in some way!) because of your cultural identities, it’s critical that you call out the prejudice and discrimination experienced by others. We must openly identify and interrupt actions, comments, jokes, stereotypes and all other behaviors that reflect forms of bias and oppression. If we want to advance inclusion, we must be more active as allies.
5. Be Authentic
At a time when hate, misunderstandings, stereotypes and assumptions about cultural identities and differences swirl all around us, it is particularly important that each of us who feels different speaks truth to power and lives as authentically as possible. Not only does the world need us to share our differences, but we also owe it to ourselves to do so in order to be more empowered and to create more inclusive spaces where others can thrive too.
It’s safe to say that our work towards creating more inclusive workplaces and a more inclusive society is an ongoing project that we must all continue to invest in. I’m so proud that the widespread interest in DEI and in anti-racism work, especially, is continuing as we enter this new year.
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Komal is bci’s Senior DEI Consultant and Mental Health Expert-in-Residence and an accomplished DEI facilitator, coach, and strategist. Komal has over 20 years of experience in providing strategic and advisory guidance and program development across a range of sectors, with a particular concentration in mental health and racial inclusion. Komal is also the founder of Insayva Inc., a social enterprise focused on providing accessible DEI and health equity support to charities and non-profit organizations.
Komal has extensive experience in creating and delivering programming in a range of DEI areas, including unconscious bias, cultural competence, mental health inclusion, psychological safety, and allyship. She is passionate about driving transformational change in workplaces and has worked closely with bci clients — corporations, professional services firms, health care providers, and educational institutions — to embed cultures of DEI within their organizations.
Komal has provided one-on-one inclusion coaching to hundreds of senior leaders and brings a unique approach that is informed by her background as a therapist. She is able to expertly handle sensitive conversations and situations and works with leaders to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to advance racial/ethnocultural, gender, and mental health-related equity across teams and organizations. Komal also offers a performance coaching program designed specifically for BIPOC leaders. This program aims to help BIPOC leaders harness their place, position, and identity to thrive in the workplace and beyond. Komal is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).
As bci’s Mental Health Expert-in-Residence, Komal offers tremendous expertise around workplace mental health. As a doctoral trained mental health clinician, certified health executive, and registered social worker, Komal has assisted organizations looking to advance employee mental health inclusion and well-being through offering programming on inclusive dialogue, anti-stigma, burnout prevention, psychological safety, resilience, and self-care. Komal is committed to advancing mental health and wellness across the life course; she currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario and previously served on the board of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.
When Komal is not working, you’ll find her painting, cooking or snuggling with her cat.