It’s National Inclusion Week, which got me thinking.
Firstly, I don’t feel wholly comfortable with the term inclusion. I was considering why and I think it’s because it has negative connotations. The inference being that you’re including people who would otherwise be excluded. Don’t get me wrong, an inclusion week is a great thing for raising awareness levels.
I just think I’d rather call it ‘National Celebration of Difference Week’ – maybe that’s not quite as snappy though!
I was talking to my seven year old daughter about this earlier. I explained about National Inclusion Week and what it was all about. Her response was wonderful. She said “we’re all the same thing and should be treated the same way. Treating someone differently because they’re not the same as you is selfish, anyone can be part of the team”.
She lives in a world where she recognises difference but values it. It doesn’t create any barriers for her. I’ve always championed the celebration of individual difference and of course working in HR, I’ve read copious articles about diversity leading to greater levels of performance – and I get why. The thing I’ve been trying to get my head around is how will people truly embrace individual difference? How can we as individuals be less “selfish”?
It goes without saying that simply telling people doesn’t work. In fact it sometimes has the opposite effect. I think raising awareness levels, especially around the impact of certain behaviours, definitely helps. I just think it runs much deeper than that.
Truly valuing people who are different to ourselves needs some degree of selflessness, a lack of ego, a level of inner confidence, and a belief that we are all actually “the same things” and that we all count.
It means throwing away the value judgements that often rule our lives – both at work and at home.
In our hierarchical, capitalist society it can be difficult to maintain that perspective but when I see my daughter at school, happily playing with other children, from all different backgrounds, I know it’s enhancing her life. She’s gaining new perspectives, different ways of looking at the world, different ways to live.
So what do I think is the difference that really makes the difference? We need to stop being selfish. Have an open mind, and the next time you meet someone who is different to you, see it as a chance to learn something new about the world. Who knows, you might end up learning something about yourself too.