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By now, we have all forgotten about the whole Yanny or Laurel recording that supposedly divided America. Some people heard Yanny, others heard Laurel. I heard Laurel yet some of my friend heard Yanny. At first I didn’t understand how they didn’t hear Laurel. It was so clear in my mind that the voice was saying Laurel. How could anyone have heard Yanny? It really didn’t make any sense to me. I actually had semi-extensive conversations about how on Earth some of my friends could hear something different than I had. They in turn, felt the same way. But here’s the interesting lesson learned after I took a step back from the situation; I realized that this whole recording goes so much deeper than what was heard from that short audio clip...
So what does this recording have to do with anything other than a short pop culture related debate? In my opinion, our approach to this debate reflects how we handle our current divisions about culture, politics, and almost everything else. Our interpretation of this recording is highly representative of our varying perspectives and how we tend to process/react to information that differs from our own. What if we took the time to ask our friends who disagreed with us WHY they heard differently than we did? They may not have been able to explain why in this situation, but what if you both took the time to brainstorm some reasons why there were differing opinions? I bet you would have come up with some creative reasons rather than thinking the other person was just plain crazy.
At one point after the initial debate we were all trying to UNDERSTAND why our perspectives were different with the recording. The key here is attempting to understand another view point. If we were so baffled by this recording enough to understand the root cause of these varying perspectives, why can’t we try to do the same in our daily lives? Why can’t we take time to understand different cultural perspectives or to understand why people believe in different political beliefs, and so on? Here's what I think....
We can do BETTER. We can be more THOUGHTFUL about HOW we approach our conversations, and actually LISTEN to what the other person is saying.
We can take the initiative within ourselves to dig a little deeper when we disagree or even when we agree on issues. We can try to have a little more empathy than we typically have on a daily basis. The thought may sound daunting, but all it takes is one tiny step in the right direction. The next time you have a disagreement, perhaps you can ask the person why they believe what they do. You may learn a little something about the person, but a lot more about yourself.
We are all aware of the Starbucks fiasco; over 800 stores are scheduled to shut down for unconscious bias training. While I commend actions being taken, I believe it’s a bandaid approach to solving an issue that takes more than one afternoon and a lot of well known people to plan and facilitate a training of this magnitude. Starbucks had the misfortune (or fortune - it’s all about perspective) of being in the spotlight for a short period of time, and they had to take immediate acton before sales plummeted even further, as a result. However, many more companies are facing the same kind of issues as Starbucks; they are just not getting amplified coverage for their actions.
I have been thinking about this issue rather extensively and wondering if the topic of diversity and inclusion is just that, a topic that sounds good in theory but has gone sour when it comes to planning and implementing an effective strategy. While we are headed in a positive direction and some companies have implemented a policy or process, are managers and employees really embracing the priority practices that come with understanding different perspectives? Implementation of a quality strategy takes commitment, time, and patience within all levels of an organization.
Some food for thought on how to take action below.
If you are in a management position or a part of a human resources team, here are three ways to get your company on the right track towards a corporate culture that embraces diversity and inclusion:
1. Create a safe space for dialogue to take place: Encourage staff to provide ideas and reassure them that their feedback is confidential and will be taken into consideration to further the D&I strategy.
2. Survey your employees: Conduct an anonymous survey to better understand employee perspectives on this issue. Ask them for ideas and do not assume you know what someone else is thinking.
3. Offer Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities: Enhance the knowledge base of your employees through articles, trainings, workshops, and lunch and learns to encourage dialogue and additional learning to gain different perspectives on diversity.
If you are an employee, here are three ways you can start impactful dialogue about diversity and inclusion within your company:
1. Believe in Yourself: First thing is first; realize you have a voice and a unique perspective to offer your company. If something is bothering you, speak to the appropriate representative within your company.
2. Start Thoughtful Dialogue: With a unique perspective comes responsibility. Turn your complaints into productive conversations by discussing a problem followed up with an idea or potential solution.
3. Limit the Gossiping: Gossip tends to manifest negativity, toxicity, and stagnation. If you hear colleagues complaining, choose to stay out of the conversation, or interject with a productive comment.
Keep in mind that these tips are not quick fixes; it takes time for change to happen. It’s just a part of how we operate as human beings. We all have to start somewhere.
International Women’s Day, is certainly a day to celebrate the strength, beauty, and power of a woman. But what happens after that day? I am always fascinated by the ability of the general public to publicize a topic for a short period of time until the next best controversial topic arises. Personally, I am interested in ongoing, actionable conversation that takes place longer than one awesome day. On this International Women’s Day I had the pleasure of participating in the World’s Biggest Mama Meetup sponsored by Mindr, Nibble and Squeak, and United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC. The goal: to hold global discussions about how we can make the world better for all moms, and how moms can make the world better for everyone. These discussions also incorporated the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as shown below.
Meetups like this one were taking place around the world; Nigeria alone had approximately 40 meetups to discuss women’s issues relevant for their culture. Our group of 10 - 15 women in Washington DC discussed issues highly relevant to working mothers in the United States: maternity and family leave. We talked about how a culture change needs to happen at the workplace in order to accommodate this major familial lifestyle change.
Now for the big question, what can we do to take action to bring greater awareness to this issue? Here are some suggestions:
1. Talk to your human resources representative to better understand the maternity leave policy. Ask questions, and follow up on unanswered questions.
2. Men and women should talk to their partners to develop their own plan of action. Each person should value and take their personal and professional roles into account when having these conversations.
3. This is a family issue, therefore men and women are affected by the family leave policy. Men should ask questions about paternity leave and advocate for time they need to ensure their family situation is in proper order.
4. Set expectations for yourself and your workplace. Be clear about when you will be online/offline and when you will be in the office or work remotely.
Every work environment is different, but effective communication and responsibility is key. Once you have taken steps to ensure a plan is in order, be open to the idea that your plan is bound to change upon execution. But, be honest with yourself and your team members about what you can handle. Trust the process, and tackle challenges using a solution oriented perspective.
This is a very human centric issue. Your voice matters, and issues can only be resolved over time if we discuss them in a productive manner.
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Let’s make each day an awesome day!