Inclusivity is a massive challenge
The challenge of inclusivity is a massive challenge that many people only look at from one angle. We may feel we include people as much as possible. We may feel that we are open and approachable. We may feel that we are fully inclusive and beyond reproach on this topic. We’re inclusive, right?
That probably isn’t as accurate as we would like it to be. I have written before about some of those keen to share their availability and openness aren’t always demonstrating this in their actions. I would also reflect that our actions and values sometimes need a review to see how inclusive we actually are.
It is a difficult situation because individuals may look to defend or justify their position by looking at their values or standards. Is that trying to deflect their position and incompleteness, or are values a valid response?
Values, standards, and culture
Values and standards are an interesting aspect where inclusivity is involved. Either we want to be inclusive and open ourselves up to others, or we don’t want to? Right? Or is it more nuanced than this? If we are truly inclusive, we want to help raise others up and to aid development and growth. If we are truly inclusive, we want to not just be open to the idea of others joining us, interacting with us, being part of our social circles, but to be proactive about reaching out, learning from others, making ourselves available, and to offering conversations to others and those outside of our current bubbles.
Culture is a big area to consider too. If you’re displaying a culture that isn’t attractive to others to interact with you, then that is a turn-off for others to want to be included. If your social time is spent drinking all the time for example, then non-drinkers are likely not to want to spend their spare time with you – it’s a culture that isn’t attractive to them. If you’re in a group of strangers waiting around somewhere, are you opening yourself to interacting with those standing on their own and including others? If you’re running a group, is the culture attractive to those who don’t currently go? What are the barriers to joining that need reviewing? How much of those are personal preferences rather than actual requirements? Do you claim to be inclusive, but when newcomers come along do they feel welcome?
We may look at others and judge them against our ideals and personal standards, or personal experiences such as upbringing. This is quite often an unconscious judgement or an unconscious bias internally and this is widely recognised as such in research organisations. Identifying this in ourselves is an important key to changing the way of how we behave and how we seek to include others. Looking to fight back against these biases is an important step towards greater inclusivity.
Suddenly, inclusivity seems like a lot of hard work! We used to think that we were fully inclusive but there is so much more to it than thinking we are inclusive, but by being proactive about including others. I don’t think that we can say we are ever fully inclusive, and that it is more like a moving spectrum where we can all do more to include others in an ongoing approach to improving interactions and how we operate as individuals, in groups, and as people wanting to improve together.
I started this post by saying that the challenge of inclusivity is a massive challenge that many people only look at from one angle. Our challenge is to open our eyes to the possibilities of being more inclusive and to benefit from this opportunity.