Inclusion, while closely related, is a separate concept from diversity. The Society for Human Resources Management defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success.”
As a young black woman I struggle to understand what inclusion means because I never felt that it applied to me in the workplace. For this very same reason it made want to know more. It was only when I signed up to attend BAME networking/speaking events that I was exposed to this topic and discovered what true inclusion was. Why wasn’t anyone else talking about this? Perhaps there is a feeling that if they spoke about it, there would be an expectation to do something about it.
I found myself having to work much more harder to get opportunities that were handed to others without hesitation. Why is that? I decided to speak to those individuals who didn’t have to do much to get these coveted opportunities to find out what I can learn from them. Colleagues expressed to me that the opportunity they had been given was just by luck - meaning it was just handed to them and they took it without having to sow any interest or passion. This seemed very unfair because on the numerous occasions when I had asked for feedback on unsuccessful (internal) interviews I was always told that it was because I didn’t have the relevant experience. So when I asked to learn those specific things and get exposure I was told: “Unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to give you that however here’s lovely project to give you.” Suffice it to say, the projects I was given had no correlation to the growth within in my role and gaining the experience I needed to prepare me for the next level!
I held meetings to discuss my concerns and suggestions for my career development but it was never taken seriously. Instead I watched others get promoted just because they were a different colour.
This had an adverse effect on my confidence. I felt alone and that I would never make it further than just an administrator. I have a desire to work in the tech sector but statistics show that up to 2% of staff in technical companies are made up of BAME. Does this mean I’m already excluded?
What are we doing to help support and promote inclusion in the workplace? If we all came together with ways and action to reduce this and enforce the importance of inclusion for BAME, the journey may be easier for us all? Yet many of us suffer silently and allow it to continue without attempting to try and resolve it.
Let’s join employee networks to be a collective voice articulating solutions. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation of employees. Too many young people are suffering to become who they really want to be because their confidence has been taken away by exclusion. This has to stop.
On a personal level, I have decide to be a role model to Secondary School students with Routes2Success. I want to share what I have learnt to help them be confident and ready to face (and embrace) the future. That is how I will make a difference.
What about you?
Sheneiqua Felix is a young emerging inclusion writer who wants to help make a difference and change lives.