I’m sitting in the airport following the last session of the SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference on twitter, and mulling over my takeaways as I get ready to head home and do the D&I work. I learned so much, and each session is worthy of its own blog post, so I expect I’ll be processing this conference on this blog for a while. But there were some common themes that held the conference together for me.
The first theme is that, while we’ve been doing D&I work for a long time, we haven’t made nearly enough progress. That said, I’m hopeful. Even though we aren’t progressing fast enough, we are still moving that needle slowly. And as Dr. Tony Byers said, we need to keep asking the same questions and seeing that we get different answers. There was also a theme about moving away from a focus on diversity to a focus on inclusion. As I heard over and over in several versions, diversity is a fact and inclusion is a choice. We really need to be moving beyond inclusion – another saying I heard in a variety of forms is: if diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked onto the dance floor, belonging is having my music playing.
I would suggest we’re doing ok making sure everyone is invited to the party, but we’ve got a ways to go to get everyone out on the dance floor. And I firmly believe we still expect them to dance to the music we choose to play.
How can we take off our version of Lisa Ling’s ‘American’ glasses and see the world through a clear lens? Obviously the first step is to acknowledge we’re wearing our own glasses, whatever they are. And to start having those difficult conversations. But to be perfectly honest, I’m tired to hearing about these first steps. Haven’t we been talking long enough? When do we start doing?
This is not to say that we don’t have difficult conversations ahead of us. If everyone had talked and listened, presumably the world would be a different place. Another theme I heard again and again is that we must have courage to say the hard things. As Dr. Tony Byers told us his grandma said, ‘tell the truth, then duck.’
But beyond talking, we have to do the work. We have to develop strategies to create inclusive places, belonging places, for everyone. Everyone has a voice, everyone’s voice has value, everyone needs a space to be heard. Maybe one reason that our conversations haven’t solved the problem lies with who is controlling the conversations?
If I sound frustrated, it’s because this is so important to me, and I want it to be fixed. Today. I’m actually leaving this conference hopeful, motivated, energized, equipped. I learned specific tactical tips (take a sharpie to those resumes and hide bias-inducing info from your hiring managers; learn how to practice and model micro-inclusions), I learned models and tips for creating holistic strategies, I learned more hard questions to ask in order to guide myself and my organization in doing this work.
Above all, I’m encouraged because there are so many other HR professionals out there, both at the conference and those who couldn’t attend, who are committed to continuing the journey. We won’t rest until everyone is out on the dance floor, and the playlist reflects every dancer.