By Sandy Sponaugle
Posted on June 17, 2020
Filed under: Business Development, Public Relations

3 steps towards creating more diversity and inclusion

Earlier this year, I was a speaker at Interise 2020, a 3-day event where we explored sustainable solutions for closing the wealth gap and ending systemic inequality.

Attending the event was an amazing learning experience for me and very eye-opening.

Today, I’m sharing 3 takeaways from the conference which we can all apply while working towards creating more diversity, inclusion, and equity in our businesses and communities.

  1. We have to start by identifying that there’s a problem and a need for change.

This goes both for the community at large, as well as each of us individually.

As individuals, one way that we can do this is by becoming aware of our own unconscious biases. 

At the event, a speaker led us through an activity where we closed our eyes and had to imagine going through our day and encountering people like a banker, nurse, bus driver, and a couple inside a restaurant celebrating an event together.

When we opened our eyes, as a group we discussed the race, gender, or sexual identity we unconsciously assigned to each person in that description. 

What race, gender, or sexual identity did we assign to the banker?
How about the bus driver?
How about the couple at the restaurant?

Through this exercise, we were each made aware of the unconscious biases that we carry. 

It can be confronting to discover these biases within ourselves. However, we must still do this work because we cannot break the bias until we are aware of it first. 

By identifying our own unconscious bias, we can then take steps to change it.

  1. If we really want to solve the problems of inclusivity and access, it is going to require us to have uncomfortable conversations.

It can be uncomfortable talking about how to create more inclusivity. We might be afraid of saying the wrong thing. We might be overwhelmed and unsure of how to come up with successful solutions.

In order to get new results, we have to start having the conversations. We need to ask questions like: 

  • What’s working in our community and what’s not working to support underserved, underrepresented, and minority communities?
  • How are we being supportive and encouraging to all – regardless of race, color, mental, or physical abilities? 
  • How can we get more people access to the resources they need?

It won’t be perfect. At first, you may stumble over your words and feel awkward. Through having the courage to get uncomfortable, you can be a part of creating solutions to these systemic problems in our society.

  1. We need to collaborate with inclusivity.

We can’t change our communities alone. All voices need to be a part of the conversation of creating inclusivity, diversity, and equity in our economy.

We need to hear the perspectives of those who are affected by the systemic racism in our society. Their voices are needed at the table. 

So how can you do this? Invite local underrepresented, underserved, or minority business owners to speak with you. Find out about their challenges and share ideas about what your local economic development organization could do to make a difference. 

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve all become aware that we must do better to create change in our communities and society. I share these ideas because I’m learning and working on this too. By engaging in these conversations, we can begin taking important steps forward. 

How is your organization taking on diversity, inclusion, and equity? What are your challenges?
What communities are doing it well, and who can you learn from?

Please share in the comments down below.

Remember – don’t be afraid to ask for help! We are all in this together. 

‘Til next time,
Sandy

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