March is Women’s History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the contributions and achievements…
Promoting Inclusion Through Cultural Awareness Activities
Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives work best with a pragmatic approach to bringing everyone along on the journey of change. There is no better occasion than National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) to acknowledge that diverse teams create innovation. Promoting inclusivity in the workplace requires deliberate spaces for employees to learn about and acknowledge differences.
There are many criticisms of diversity commemorations in the workplace. Some argue that DEI programs that focus on “food, fun, and flags” diminish the seriousness and urgency of essential work. Others feel that hosting diversity events takes resources and attention away from addressing systemic issues.
While the most effective DEI tactics go beyond surface-level platitudes, culture change may be accelerated through visible actions. I’ve observed how organizations can be thoughtful and planful about integrating cultural commemorations into their overarching DEI strategy. Through commemorations of cultural diversity months, a company can dedicate resources toward employee engagement while promoting cultural awareness.
Diversity programming generates creative ideas among employees about helpful ways to develop a community of inclusion within the workplace. Diversity commemorations also serve as learning and leadership opportunities, a way to model inclusion among employees from diverse cultural backgrounds. Team- and rapport-building activities such as culturally focused lunch-and-learns and speaker events can be hosted remotely.
In my professional evolution as a diversity leader, I know that cultural self-awareness has played an important role in clarifying my values of equity and justice. Years of DEI work has encouraged me to reflect upon my own multicultural background and upbringing, and their influence on my leadership approach. I identify as Black, and I fully embrace my family’s Mexican, indigenous, and White ancestry. Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Denver, Colorado, I relished the opportunity to fully immerse in both my Black and Hispanic identities. My experiences as the mother of multiracial children allowed me to empathize and find commonalities with co-workers from diverse, mixed-race, and LGBTQ+ households, as they navigate a wide array of cultural complexities.
Throughout my career, employee engagement activities have allowed me to get to know the honest perspectives of my peers and direct reports. When implemented well, diversity-focused events can serve as an invitation for people with diverse identities to be comfortable sharing about their lived experiences. These activities help to build mutual trust, rapport, and respect for diverse identities. They also contribute to fostering space for personal exploration of one’s cultural self, and how to confidently and authentically show up in the workplace.
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