A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting where I didn’t feel fully included and was reminded of this at the weekend when I attended an excellent training event on Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism run by Greenpeace. During the introduction some ground rules were set, these included the usual things like, respect, confidentiality, etc, and ‘step up/step back’. This was explained as please do speak up to contribute, but also step back so as not to dominate and let others have space to express their views.
This took me back to the start of the other meeting a few weeks ago. It was a training session for people relatively new to the organisation and included employees from all levels and volunteers. It is fair to say that the organisation takes Equality, Diversity and Inclusion seriously and probably believes it ticks all the boxes. Yet I, and probably some others, did not feel fully included. There was some informal chat before the meeting started which was dominated by two people in senior positions who obviously knew each other before joining the organisation; the loud conversation was about golf, before moving on to football. The rest of us around the table were unable to contribute. Those two could have helped the group come together by ‘stepping back’.
That was probably why the events at lunchtime upset me; I was already not feeling part of the group. We had been asked for our dietary requirements in advance and, this being Cornwall, we were provided with a pasty – mine was vegan. There was also a selection of cakes, pastries and biscuits, that is if you were not vegan. I had just one option, chocolate bites. I turned vegan over ten years ago and in those early days I felt grateful just to be provided with something to eat; however, that lack of choice helped me feel excluded. A little bit more thought could have changed all that. Inclusion is more than just not being excluded.
Exclusion can take many forms, a meeting in a pub will exclude people whose religion prohibits alcohol. It may also exclude others because there is an expectation to spend money. That type of inclusion, which is more hidden, can easily be overlooked.
The Greenpeace training course also provided a key to unlocking the solution to these problems:
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