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The awakening of inclusion

Inclusion is possibly one of the topics that will be most discussed during the coming years at a social, economic, business, governmental, family, professional, sports, musical, and a long etcetera.


We are facing a general awakening regarding the issue of discrimination, lack of opportunities, access barriers, but we are still at the beginning of the real discussion about what inclusion means and how to implement it.


In social, cultural, educational, and family areas we have to contribute with our grain of sand to bring this change at a general level. It is a bigger fight than us, but it will be achieved with our contribution, with our courage and determination to do something and not stand idly by waiting for reality to be modified by "the system."


At professional and business spheres our participation is even more fundamental and direct since we have in our hands the possibility of carrying out these changes directly in our companies and in those where we work or collaborate. Here, talking about inclusion has to lead us to concrete actions that generate real transformation from the micro (the company) to the macro (society in general).


I emphasize Inclusion because for me this concept brings together other fundamental issues in today's changing world and the future of our societies such as Equity, Equality, and Diversity. Inclusion is the element that gives meaning and relevance to these other concepts.


Inclusion is opening spaces for all people to be heard and taken into account. It requires a behavior change and at the same time adjustments in terms of organization and structure of the company.


The awakening of inclusion

Picture by Clay Banks on Unsplash


The leadership style, the team dynamics can be considered as behavioral and attitudinal aspects that can be adjusted to promote inclusion. Regarding the organization of the company, we can consider starting by reviewing the human resources policies, how the meetings are carried out, the decision-making models and in more structural aspects all those that allow access to people with different earing, visual and motor skills, for example.


The famous phrase of Verna Myers “Diversity is to be invited to the party. Inclusion is to be asked to dance” has contributed to giving more clarity when talking about Inclusion. However, it falls short since it is referring only to a behavioral and not a structural aspect.


To go deeper into Inclusion using this phrase, the invitation to dance is not enough, but we should also be part of the organizational aspects to carry out the party: be part of the organizing committee, participation in fundamental decisions (the playlist, catering, etc.) and be an active part of its development.

This is Inclusion!


Now, the question we often ask ourselves is how to implement Inclusion in our lives, in our companies, and in jobs?


The fundamental concept to be able to practice Inclusion is undoubtedly Empathy, understood as the exercise of understanding and feeling what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference and not from ours. The most generalized and frequently used definition of empathy is that of "putting yourself in the other person's shoes."


Empathy is above all a capacity, a skill, that can be consciously obtained, developed, and improved. It is one of the misnamed "soft skills" that for me would be better defined as essential skills.


One of the ways to enhance Empathy is to begin to recognize the barriers or obstacles that other people may have to understand their particular problem.


Now, if we want to go further, and in my view, we have to go further, each one of us must do a radical exercise of visualizing the Privilege (s) that we have.


By Privilege, I mean "those advantages that have been socially granted to some people and not to others" which have not been obtained by effort or a work plan but have been given to us without requesting them.


These advantages, which can be systemic or structural, limit access to resources and are the result of legal or social norms that have to do with belonging to a group, regardless of any action or inaction of the people who have that access.


Identifying what are those privileges I have as a person helps me to visualize the barriers other people may have in the same situation (work, social, family) that I face at any time or in my daily life.


We cannot escape from the Privilege received, but we can act in a positive way to transform it into Empathy towards people who do not have it and take concrete steps to reduce the barriers. The first step is to recognize certain behaviors, normative models, and the tendency to justify the privilege that has existed in human societies.


As a consequence of that recognition, we begin to see, understand, and feel that this Privilege that benefits me at the same time is a setback, an obstacle for other people.


Then the true Empathy arises, which is not the one where I put myself in the other person's situation from her/him perspective, but I complement it with a radically honest look from my Privilege.


It is here where I consider that the true process of practicing Inclusion in our lives and especially in our professional and business environments begins: understanding, from a deeply empathetic perspective, the structural and behavioral barriers and establishing the mechanisms and actions necessary to reduce them.


In the private sector (even in the public sector) this process must be started today, there is no more time to lose, we must be clear that by having a true dynamic of Inclusion the benefits in terms of creativity, innovation, happiness, and commitment will be enormous.


Article published in Spanish by the magazine Rocking Talent - May 2021


true empathy begins with a radically honest understanding of our own privilege