Building a more inclusive workplace

Credit: Clay Banks
Credit: Clay Banks

As we approach the tail-end of a particularly tumultuous year, it’s time to build personal plans and strategies that achieve real inclusion in our industry.

Inclusion and belonging aren’t just key themes throughout my career, but my life. 

As young as nine years-old, I joined a group committed to teaching students how to treat one another with mutual respect and empathy. I’ve strived to bring this same approach to every company I’ve been at since, particularly in the advertising and media sectors. 

It’s no secret that diversity and inclusion are challenges for our industry — a fact many organizations vowed to address this summer. But in addition to large-scale change, there are small steps we can take to create more tolerant, empathetic and understanding workplaces. 

As we approach the tail-end of a particularly tumultuous year, it’s time to build personal plans and strategies that achieve real inclusion in our industry. 

Be curious

Your colleagues are also people — even your boss. 

Everyone’s identity stretches beyond their job title. Be curious about the journey that led your coworkers to where they are. It’s easy to overlook the obstacles some have had to overcome to work in this industry. If we learn about those obstacles, perhaps we can remove them. 

Consider the care and curiosity you put into a client relationship, and treat your coworkers the same. Ask thoughtful questions, listen actively and avoid making assumptions.

Build rapport and be vulnerable

Keep in mind that people have different boundaries when it comes to sharing their experiences. 

Building rapport happens over time, not in one swift motion. Ask people questions, but gauge their comfort level with opening up and don’t push too hard. 

Sharing more of yourself with your colleagues to encourage others to open up. Vulnerability is often the gateway to stronger, closer relationships and real trust. 

Embrace discomfort

Changing habits is uncomfortable. Lean into that. 

Think of allyship as exercise. It’s important to push yourself, to flex and stretch those muscles. If you can’t feel the impact in your bones, you’re not doing it right. 

Like any workout, there’s never a bad time to start, nor is there a good time to stop. There is no way to master inclusivity; it’s a constant evolution and there is always more room to grow. 

There is so much work to be done, in our industry and beyond. Start by committing to a more inclusive mindset. Taking these small yet imperative steps can start to move our industry in the right direction. 

Latasha Sukhu is senior director of  learning and development and talent engagement at Index Exchange

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