In September 2020 we introduced the Concirrus Diversity Network, an initiative to provide our team with a safe platform to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion. Since then, we’ve had monthly meetups to listen to each other, educate ourselves, and celebrate our differences.
Following an intense and unprecedented two years, the conversation around DE&I has been on the rise. During the height of the pandemic, when most of the world was in lockdown, the media brought inequality and social issues into sharper focus. The high-profile murder of George Floyd, along with hate crimes against both Asian and Jewish communities, sparked global movements addressing long standing institutional and structural racism.
At Concirrus we recognised that we were not doing enough to provide a safe place for our team to discuss DE&I. Through our Diversity Network we have been able to learn from each other as well as several insightful guest speakers. These speakers have shared their experiences and perspectives with us, covering:
- Diversity and inclusion
- Bias in design
- Disability awareness
- Inclusive language
- The LGBTQIA community
- The Black Lives Matter movement
So, what have we learnt so far?
Below our Marcoms Executive Hannah Freeman, who runs our Diversity Network, shares 10 lessons from the initiative so far.
- Differentiating between diversity equity and inclusion. Often when we refer to DE&I the lines can become blurred. It is important that we distinguish what DE&I means as one cannot exist fully without the other. For instance, you can have lots of diversity in a company, but you can only retain diversity if equity and inclusion are present in the company culture. A simple way to explain the difference between the three terms is to think of DE&I in the ‘party’ analogy.
“Diversity is inviting everyone to a party, Inclusion is asking everyone to dance at the party and Equity is asking all attendees to help to plan the party and then valuing and utilising their input.”
- Talking about DE&I resonates more when we humanize it. I have found when discussing DE&I related topics that sharing statistics and data doesn’t typically inspire your audience and encourage inclusive behaviour. However, when we hear from people with real-life stories it makes much more of an impact. Our guest speakers over the last year have been extremely open and honest about their experiences, challenges, and DE&I journeys. By listening to each other’s experiences and perspectives we have built stronger working relationships and therefore we have become more aware of certain issues and behaviors we need to address.
- Allyship is key. It can be hard to speak up about DE&I related issues especially if you are worried about offending someone or saying the wrong thing. If you have personally never faced discrimination, racism, or sexism you may feel like your comments are not going to be valid or useful. However, sometimes saying nothing can be worse than saying the wrong thing. We can all think of a time when we may have felt excluded e.g., feeling left out in the playground at school. So, we can all relate to the feeling of being excluded. By using empathy and utilising our voices we can help underrepresented groups whose voices often get unheard become heard. Of course, speaking up and being an active ally can be a tough expectation. However, we often assume that allyship is instant performance and instant response however sometimes just listening is enough.
- DE&I is more than race and gender. When we think of DE&I we can sometimes restrict ourselves into thinking of subjects that solely relate to race and gender. However certain individuals and groups can often go ignored and misunderstood when we confine DE&I to race or gender. Over the past year during our Diversity Network meetups, we have covered many topics that we would not usually discuss during work. As humans, we tend to surround ourselves with people like us and find comfort in familiarity. By having the Diversity Network in place, we can delve into subjects that some of the team may have had little experience and understanding of e.g., learning about invisible disabilities and access needs.
- Everyone has a role to play. Inclusion is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace. Whether you’re a leader or an employee your role is vital. However, if you are a decision maker then your participation is important as it filters down to the rest of your team and relays the message that DE&I is important for the business. DE&I should not be thought of as a fluffy subject or a tick box exercise. We should all have a commitment to becoming DE&I advocates and an ally to all.
- Celebrating each other’s differences. By celebrating and talking about our differences we can build stronger cultural awareness. The diverse nature of the tech industry means our team is extremely diverse and therefore we all celebrate different holidays, traditions, and celebrations. By acknowledging these differences internally and taking the time to celebrate together we can help create a more inclusive environment.
- Ask the humble questions. Nobody is perfect and sometimes we are going to say the wrong thing. However, if we are going into DE&I conversations with good intent then this is a starting point. A few of our guest speakers this year have commented on the importance of asking humble questions. These questions should be free from judgment and lead with curiosity. This may feel uncomfortable but can go a long way in helping others feel more included e.g. “I want to understand this more, please can you elaborate?”
- Budget matters. Allocating budget for DE&I initiatives is extremely important. Without it, there is only so much you can do with limited resources. It is vital that decision makers within the business understand the importance of DE&I and make the time and effort to join meetups. When companies talk about DE&I there can sometimes be a lack of congruence between their actions and words. By investing in DE&I it shows your employees and clients that you care.
- It’s important to look in the mirror. During our Diversity network meet ups we have discussed topics that have encouraged us to look at ourselves and ask difficult questions. For example, it can be useful to ask yourself “How does my privilege help me?” or “Do my friends look like me?” When we do this, it can be daunting however by asking ourselves these uncomfortable questions we can encourage growth.
- DE&I is fun! This year the Diversity Network has been a place for the team to learn more about each other and hear from experts within the field. By having this platform not only have we been able to raise awareness together of the different aspects of DE&I but we have been able to implement real change and shift mindsets. This filters down into our culture and how we celebrate each other. We look forward to more Diversity Network meetups 2022!
Find out how you can become an active ally here:
Learn more about inclusion here:
Please get in touch here if you would like to join us next year as a guest speaker in our Diversity Network meetups!