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How Diversity and Inclusion Can Help A Business Flourish

Madhat Girls x Fresh & Fearless

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace; why is it important to address them and how can they help the growth and success of a business? The irony is that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is still not a diverse topic of discussion within a workplace.

Sara Chandran is the founder of Fresh & Fearless, a D&I consultancy, where they shift mindsets and belief systems to create inclusive workplaces. Sara was able to have a chat with Madhat Girls about the initial inspiration for becoming a D&I consultant and what she hopes to achieve through her start-up business.

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What is Diversity and Inclusion?

So, what does diversity mean? It can simply mean a range of different things. It is the recognition of individual differences, whether that be race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, mental health and so much more.

Diversity showcases our unique and own authentic selves. Inclusion then means accepting these differences and allowing us to be open-minded with another.

We have seen over the years how D&I is becoming in the forefront of businesses minds, such as Mental Health, Disability, Religion, Gender Identity, Age and more. But more can still be done, right? The answer is yes! Businesses are slowly becoming aware of how diversity and inclusion can benefit their success and expand their business; but how?


Traits We Have For Diversity and Inclusion

Denial MindsetA person with a denial-way of making meaning when encountering diversity may easily recognise differences like diverse religious holidays, food between cultures and people, styles of music, or
ways of speaking.
Mindset of PolarisationWhen some people are faced with diversity, there is a high degree of judging or evaluating or comparing our differences.
MinimisationThe vast majority of the population minimise differences and diversity. Minimisation emphasises commonalities in the basic needs of humans.
Accepting MindsetThis means the exploration is conducted from the perspective of the other who is different.
AdaptationThe adaptive mindset bridges differences and diversity using a complex set of diversity frameworks.
Attitude of Openness When you are open to diversity and differences in others, you are open to interacting with them.
CuriosityCuriosity about diversity certainly means we have the desire and inclination to learn about others who are different from us.
Self-AwarenessSelf-awareness leads you to progress from looking for sameness to seeking complexity based on differences and diversity.
Skill of empathyA person with empathy demonstrates an understanding of the complexity of what can be important to diverse others.
Resource by FutureLearn and Purdue University
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/diversity-inclusion-awareness

What Can Spark Our Interest with Diversity and Inclusion?

Sara’s interest in D&I sparked when she became the Education Officer at her student union. She became aware of the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) attainment gap, where BAME students were less likely to achieve high grades, such as 2.1 or First degree compared with their white peers. This was despite students entering University with the exact same grade. 

This inequality was taking place for a number of reasons. Things like a lack of diversity in the curriculum and of academic staff meant students from BAME backgrounds could not seem themselves at the institution. When you can’t see yourself, you don’t feel like you belong – a feeling which impacts your level of productivity and wellbeing. 

Sara took matters into her own hands and decided to set up an event to raise awareness and this initiated a battle cry to raise questions. Conversations started happening and senior academic staff worked with Sara to build initiatives and working groups to tackle the issue. 

In times like these, seeing situations that seem unfair or not feeling like you fit in, it raises the issues with D&I and is there any of it?

D&I is in our everyday existence and it is how we react to being judged or stereotyped. Education is important, is it not a matter or training, it is also about learning and developing oneself to be accepting and understanding.


Time To Speak Up In The Workplace

Sara moved onto Marketing & PR as her next career step. However, she began noticing once again a lack of representation in the creative sector. 

So, by speaking up to her senior management and raising her concerns, Sara spearheaded the agency’s D&I strategy. This allowed her to overhaul the recruitment processes to make it fair and unbiased, such as using the blind CVs process.

Joining networks and communities within your workplace is also a great way of being heard. Asking those questions if the company is treating everyone fairly and how can there be more representation in your own workplace? Look into your Union and see how your place in the workplace can be more diversified.

Speaking up is a big step towards recognising and acknowledging change must happen.

Knowing that D&I is there to help improve not only the business but the staff too. D&I builds better relationships with your colleagues and clients, as you understand and accept their differences. If we were all the same, can you imagine how dull that would be?

To encourage D&I training and workshops in your workplace, you need to change the way you communicate about D&I. Sharing the core values of D&I and will it benefit your colleagues and the success of the business as a whole. By researching articles and statistics, this can help further your case.


Our Unconscious Bias

Diversity and inclusion is the cultural and behavioural mindset of an individual. Having had social conditioning from such an early age, this has created unconscious bias thoughts on individuals. Stereotype has also been influenced by constant media such as TV, magazines, social media, etc.

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Assumptions and judgements can be made in our subconscious mind without even realising. Our subconscious and conscious mind makes shortcuts, which in return creates bias reactions and thoughts. We have to try to battle against this and change how we think.

Unconscious bias happens involuntarily without any awareness or intentional control.

Resource by FutureLearn and Purdue University

Sometimes, making decisions in a workplace, you are not self aware when shortcuts are being made in your mind and therefore you’re already creating the bias assumptions. Therefore, we need to integrate our thought processes by having open-minded discussions and adequate training; this can help progression in our job.


How Can Diversity And Inclusion Support Business Growth?

There are many factors to how D&I can support and grow businesses. Putting D&I in the forefront of a business to promote variety. Here’s a list:

  • Allows you to be your authentic self, be more open to others and accepting.
  • Ability to bounce off ideas to a different variety of individuals – this creates more ideas to have success.
  • Being able to think more creatively being surrounded by different people.
  • Better work ethic and communication between colleagues and clients.
  • Allow to expand your business by being open-minded and reaching international possibilities.
  • Let you have an understanding of one another – having empathy towards one another.
  • Enables you to create a wider range of initiatives and ideas.

Fresh & Fearless Was Born

So, after some time, Sara decided to start-up her own consultancy business to tackle D&I in the workplace. The business embellishes all the elements that we have discussed so far.

The business model is to audit the business to see where there may be some cultural barriers and exclusive behaviours and culture. This helps her create bespoke initiatives and training for businesses (clients). Being able to shift the mindset and belief systems to create an equal society and not be labelled or be put into a box.

The objectives are to allow open-minded beliefs in the workplace and the understanding of how to communicate to their fellow colleagues and clients through D&I consultancy.


COVID-19 And How We Can Move Forward

Unfortunately, in March 2020, COVID-19 struck and lock down ensued. Sara explains that there’s been very little buy-ins for D&I consultants and not much investment in D&I in these difficult times. D&I can sometimes be put in the back burner and no longer in the forefront. However, to ensure the longevity of a business post-COVID-19, D&I need to remain a priority.

Sara is currently working on developing a lot of content for the business, working from home a lot and very interested in seeing how an inclusive environment can be seen not in a physical space but virtually. You can find Sara’s article on The Guardian here.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAfjesKpM7D/

Now is a great opportunity to self-reflect and recognise our own self-awareness. With time, this can also allow you to think if your work represents equality or inequality?.

Whether you are currently self-employed, freelancer, part-time, full-time or zero hours, no matter what type of profession you are in; D&I comes first. When you start becoming accepting and inclusive, you are already building your success and making a positive change. You are creating value and that’s achieving your utmost potential in life.

Thank you so much to Sara for allowing Madhat Girls to share your wonderful story and insight to your journey with Diversity and Inclusion!

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