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Mar 28, 201712:28 PMMosaic Marketplace

with Deborah Biddle — A blog for diverse business enterprises in and around Madison.

Making room for one more, a simple act of micro-inclusion

(page 1 of 2)

Organizations have learned that workforce diversity affords a competitive advantage when selling to diverse consumers. Businesses recognize that diversity in the workforce leads to more highly engaged teams and provides a better arena for innovation to occur. Companies also know that diversity alone isn’t the answer and that lasting workforce diversity doesn’t happen without creating environments where multiple cultures, ethnicities, genders, and abilities are welcomed, included, and respected.

However, in many organizations, there remains a void between understanding inclusive behaviors and putting them into practice. Sometimes, it seems that valuing co-workers and mutual respect are an odd concept, despite most of us having been taught as children to treat others as we want to be treated. Why wouldn’t that basic admonition from our parents and grandparents hold true in business contexts?

Harvard Business Review writers Laura Sherbin and Ripa Rashid reason that “part of the problem is that ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. But that’s just not the case. In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”

Recently, I had an experience with a local business owner that simply and beautifully articulated the power of inclusion and imparted lessons about transferring this power into the marketplace. My encounter with Mary Helen Conroy, retirement expert, author, podcaster, life coach, and motivational speaker, gave me three life lessons that you can put into practice today to build more diverse and inclusive work cultures.

Most of us have had the experience of being excluded. Whether from a sports team as a child, the popular kids lunch table in high school, the dominant culture in one of several social situations, or the high potentials at work, whatever the reason or circumstance, knowingly being excluded is far from a good time. Sometimes it is obvious and intentional. Other time, it is subtle or unintentional. No matter how it happens it leaves a bad feeling.

For this reason many of us get more than a little unnerved at the thought of attending events alone. I was feeling a bit that way as I was preparing to attend a recent professional association event. I knew the president of the organization and was excited about the speaker and subject matter. However, a set of circumstances arose that prevented me from arriving early. This meant I'd arrive during the introductory networking time and would have to wade through the crowd to find a seat. My experience upon my arrival, however, was different than expected and an example of what I have coined “micro-inclusion.”

As I have defined it, a micro-inclusion is any small behavior, gesture, or conversation that invites, takes in, or embraces a person or group of people into another group as part of the whole. This is what I experienced at the professional association event. 

I’d been invited to attend this meeting by the organization’s president. After receiving an email about the current month’s speaker, I decided to a register as a first-time guest and attend. Where I live and work, I am often one of few people of color at almost any event I attend and one of an even smaller number of women of color. This day was no exception.

Because of the type of organization, as I expected, I was warmly greeted and instructed about the check-in process, name tags, coat rack, etc. As I scanned the room, I noted that most tables near the front were full. So, I walked around to the rear of the room where I saw a table with an open chair. I made eye contact with one of the women at the table and asked if the seat was open. She politely told me that a gentleman had previously been sitting there and she thought he would be returning soon. So, no, it was not. I acknowledged her reply and began to turn to see where else I might find a seat in the room. What happened next made all the difference in my afternoon.


Mar 29, 2017 08:19 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Yeay for Mary Helen! I've gone to events, more of a meeting nature than networking, but still an opportunity to get to know people - and I often feel like I am the only one trying to learn people's names, ask questions, and simply be friendly. The best part is - everyone around her saw her example - she reached more than one person.

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