This past week, we had the pleasure of being led on a journey about inclusiveness by Olga Spivak, a founding board member of Building Up.  Perhaps like many of you, when Olga said she wanted to explore the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had some apprehension and uncertainty.  But knowing Olga, I was confident she would create an experience that was comfortable for all of us. 

Guess what?  She did!

In about 30 minutes, those of us who joined the webinar discussion went on a journey that began in our childhoods and ended with us consciously planning our future activities more deliberately. 

Here are my 3 (biggest (not only)) ah-ha moments:

Personal Bias:

To begin, Olga asked us questions about when and how we first learned about things like the difference between being a man or a woman, what was our first message of what family is, what about the first message around what work is.  And what about money and opinions on health and body?

Some of us shared our early experiences.  As we did, we learned of the biases our parents or families imparted upon us when we were growing up.  For some of us, we grew up in families where our fathers encouraged only our male siblings to get the good grades and the job.  While, the female siblings were told not to get pregnant.  This not only left us feeling discouraged about professional opportunities, it created an unhealthy view of sexuality.  

Bias awareness:

We discovered that even though we may have believed or wanted to believe ourselves to be without bias, we all do have inherent bias.  These areas of bias do hinder us from being as inclusive as we could be. 

Research shows that we all have a bias or tendency to select people like us.  Whether it’s personal friendships or professionally at work.  When we do this, we create an environment where there are no challenges, where no one is challenging the norm to make it different and make it better.  We need to consciously hire people who are different than us.  Those that have different approaches, views and ways to get things done. 

Research also shows women often have bias toward other women. 

Change Now!

Through this process, the group participating all shared areas in their day-to-day lives where they could be more inclusive.  Some of us are deliberately inclusive in personal lives.  Like with the parents of our childrens’ friends or with their teams.  Yet, when it comes to the office environment, we can be focused on work and the task at hand and not be as proactively inclusive.  We identified areas where we could improve today.  

This ah-ha moment was particularly meaningful for me.  As I’ve been listening to people talk about DEI initiatives. The process can feel daunting.  How do you create something today that’s “perfect” and sustainable?  What I learned is: it starts today. Just like any other project – you don’t start with boiling the ocean.  You start today with a conscience discipline and grow from there. 

Thank you Olga!  You’ve opened our eyes and inspired us all!