7 Tips to Starting a Diversity & Inclusion Conversation in The Workplace


American novelist Truman Capote once said “A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”

Open dialogue is consistently recognized as one of the most powerful tools for change. However, we consistently struggle to truly create authentic safe spaces in the workplace to take on sensitive and cultural challenges. This is especially true for topics related to Diversity, Inclusion and Equality. Here are a few anecdotes to help you take steps to advance Diversity, Inclusion and Equality in the workplace.

1. Build Awareness

Help your employees understand why there is a need for a meeting to increase Diversity and Inclusion by documenting the use case. Be open and describe how current cultural norms and attitudes can be improved, celebrated and protected. Encourage your employees to continue what they excel at, but still highlight their weaknesses. Explain you want your workplace to be protected from generic stereotypes and cultural misappropriation.

2. Listen to Your Peers

Allow peers to express their feedback and add their thoughts to your bullet points on creating Diversity and Inclusion awareness in your workplace. This promotes building a community and fostering discussions to ignite positive change. Open discussion replaces the stigma of discussing diversity with individual enthusiasm and employee motivation.

3. Lobby for Executive Buy-In

Encourage an executive leader to give their support at the Diversity and Inclusion meeting to reduce fear that open discussion is not welcomed. An executive’s involvement increases employee confidence and encouragement versus towing the line on your own.

4. #IAmRemarkable by Google has got your back!

Consider becoming a certified program facilitator! Google has a fantastic program called I Am Remarkable. The initiative focuses on empowering women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. It’s free to register as a facilitator, and as an bonus, you can give this 90 minute workshop not only to your peers, but also to anyone willing to listen! Spread the work to any volunteer groups you may be involved in in your spare time.

5. Put Pen to Paper

Document what peers think are your biggest challenges. Once the meeting is set, your executive champion is on board and the room is attentive, launch the meeting and take careful notes. Document which challenges are most debated, brought up and what steps are agreed upon by everyone to take on as a community. Your employees will not only be enthused about joining, but they’ll trust your word in knowing this can be a key forum for change. Better yet, they know it’s change they have the ability to influence and impact.

6. Be Accountable for D&I Progress

Treat these initiatives as a business product and hold yourself accountable. Set milestones, responsibility owners and check-ins so that progress can be monitored and discussed. Schedule follow-up meetings and celebrate your peers when you’ve successfully achieved a goal identified in your kick-off meeting.

7. Speak Up. Stand Up.

Don’t wait for someone else to say something. Diversity is everyone’s responsibility! Silence won’t foster progress. By sharing your voice as a leader, others will be encouraged to use theirs, too! Above all, press forward with what you feel is right and just, because we all could use a few more folks like that around. 

Chae Obrien