Tag Archives: Kathy Obear

Part 4: Infusing Diversity Into Everything We Do

 “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

Earlier in my career as a college administrator and an organizational consultant I used to teach a wide variety of courses on various interpersonal skills (leadership development, team building, communication skills, conflict management, customer service, stress management, time management, etc.) with little or no direct reference to the issues of inclusion and diversity. As I look back I am rather appalled since today I cannot imagine teaching these topics in corporations, human service agencies, or at colleges and universities without some attention to issues of diversity and inclusion. To be fair, the societal context and climate were somewhat different 20+ years ago, and yet I still believe I was remiss in my work.

In this post I explore the 4th layer of the cake to infuse diversity/inclusion into educational sessions and courses ~ weaving diversity into the CONTENT of the learning. (Note: Other 3 posts are below this one.)  For example, a course on effective leadership provides a significant opportunity to help participants develop their competencies in the following skill sets:

  •  Lead and manage diverse teams
  • Attract, develop, and retain a culturally competent, diverse employee group
  • Prepare employees/students to live and work in a global environment

Similarly, a training session on customer service needs to include a strong emphasis on developing emerging and niche markets and providing excellent customer service to the full breadth of clients across group memberships. In most every course involving any type of interpersonal skill building, facilitators can infuse diversity/inclusion by designing activities to explore the following:

  • What are the breadth of group memberships among the people you serve and with whom you interact?
  • What are some of the common, societal attitudes and biases that still exist towards people from these various group memberships?
  • How might these attitudes/biases impact how people treat others: either with unearned privilege and deference? or undeserved negative, exclusionary treatment? Discuss specific examples they have observed or experienced.
  • Which of these attitudes/biases might you still be working to release and unlearn?
  • What are ways to interrupt these stereotypes when we recognize we are treating people based on our assumptions and attitudes?

Facilitators can reinforce issues of diversity/inclusion with key “generic” phrases, including:

  • create an inclusive environment
  • develop a diverse team
  • prepare people to serve the increasingly diverse customer population
  • ensure everyone is engaged in the process
  • treat everyone with respect and dignity
  • utilize the various perspectives and innovative ideas from different team members
  • include people in decision-making processes who are a part of implementing the decisions
  • pay attention for any possible unintended impact of decisions and actions

Facilitators can teach participants to track/observe with an “Inclusion Lens,” meaning to notice patterns of behavior and treatment by Insider/Outsider group membership. You can note the caveat that not every member of an insider group treats outsider group members in the same way, and yet there are patterns of differential treatment and experience that often occur. For example, not all managers disrespect the input of people they supervise, and at the same time, many employees report the pattern of managers dismissing and rejecting their ideas and suggestions without much discussion. Most people can learn to use an Inclusion Lens to analyze and diagnose situations. I find participants can easily recognize and relate to Insider/Outsider group dynamics with respect to several categories of difference, including:

  • hierarchical level (executives, managers, supervisors, employees; faculty, staff, students)
  • job function (white collar, blue collar; STEM and business schools compared to colleges of education and fine arts)
  • revenue generation (profit centers, service providers, back room operations)
  • years of experience (more experienced, less experienced, new to organization)
  • age (40’s and 50’s, 30’s, 20’s, 65+, teenagers) It may be useful to design initial examples/stores and activities (role plays, case scenarios, video clips, etc.) using some of the above categories to teach these various diversity/inclusion concepts and tools.

Once participants are easily using the terms and concepts in discussions you can then add examples that reinforce these tools using other categories of difference, including race/ethnicity, nationality/citizenship, gender (identity and expression), religion/spirituality/ways of knowing, sexual orientation, social/economic class, ableness/disability, etc.

Case studies can provide powerful learning opportunities to apply basic diversity/inclusion concepts and skills in real-time situations. The following questions may be useful prompts to diagnose and discuss a case study:

1. What are the various group memberships of the people involved, and which insider/dominant and outsider/subordinated group memberships seem central to this situation?

2. What are the probable perspectives and feelings of each party?

3. What unconscious attitudes, assumptions, and bias might be playing out in this situation ~ both towards members of outsider groups as well as members of insider groups?

4. What, if any, unproductive or exclusionary behaviors are occurring in this situation that undermine the organization’s values and mission?

5. What are the probable outcomes if this situation is left unaddressed (whether the impact was intended or not): for members of outsider/subordinated groups? members of insider/dominant groups? for the team? for the organization?

6. What organizational issues are relevant in this situation, such as formal and informal policies, norms, organizational practices, etc.

7. Given your diagnosis, what and/or who should be the focus of a response? What are your hoped for outcomes?

8. What might be some effective ways to respond? And by whom?

These case study prompts reinforce the following diversity/inclusion tools and concepts:

  • Tracking or Panning ~ observing the details and facts of a situation without interpretation or judgment
  • Group membership
  • Bias and prejudice
  • Perspective-taking
  • Insider/Outsider groups
  • Common exclusionary/unproductive group dynamics
  • Intent vs. Impact
  • Organizational dynamics
  • Responses to create greater inclusion

Below I provide four different examples that show how facilitators can weave diversity/inclusion skills into various interpersonal skill-building workshops/courses.

1. In a course on decision-making facilitators can infuse issues of diversity/inclusion in a number of ways including:

a. Participants practice tracking group interactions with an Inclusion Lens

  • Set-up role plays of group discussions and have observers track the frequency and type of comments by group memberships; and also track how others responded/reacted to each comment
  • Coach them to report their observations at the “group level” and not only at the individual level, for example: Instead of reporting out that “Jim initiated the discussion and looked at George as he spoke,” coach participants to note the group memberships: “A man started the conversation and seemed to look at another man as he spoke. Both appeared white. When a woman entered the discussion these two men looked down and then at each other, and no one follow-up on her comment.”

b. Practice how to analyze decision-making processes to ensure they are inclusive:

  • Have participants role play an actual team planning session using the following prompts :
  1. Do we have the full breadth of social identity groups and perspectives at the table? Involved in the process?
  2. Does our process seriously consider the input/perspectives of a broad range of groups?
  3. How can we make this process inclusive for members of various and multiple group memberships?

c. Practice using the following questions to analyze specific suggestions, practices and policies for unintended bias and differential impact across group membership:

  • How might our unconscious attitudes and assumptions about ____ be playing out in this decision?
  • What could be the impact of each option on the various constituencies and groups in our organization across insider and outsider group memberships?
  • How might each option inadvertently advantage some and disadvantage others?
  • How might newer employees react to this compared to those with seniority? How might younger people react compared to those who are older? How might people react differently based on level in the organization? Race? Gender identity?

2. The following example shows how to infuse diversity/inclusion into a course on customer service.

  • Facilitators can show 4-6 video clips that illustrate some of the subtle ways that some customers receive excellent service while others do not.
  • Have learners first track the scenarios for less effective customer service, then watch them again, and describe what they noticed by group membership. For example: “When the man in a suit came into the office the rep immediately looked up from the computer, smiled and greeted him. When a woman of color wearing jeans came in no one greeted her for at least 10 seconds.”
  • Then lead a discussion about other types of customer service scenarios that participants have observed or experienced that left them wondering: Is this differential treatment happening due to an overall lack of customer service for everyone? or are there do some groups get better treatment, and others worse service?” Note: Work to have a broad range of categories of difference reflected in the examples.

3. Another way to infuse diversity/inclusion is to have participants diagnose case studies from 3 perspectives: Individual level, Group Level, and Organizational Level (IGO). For example, in a session on conflict management, have the participants use the following questions to analyze the situation from these three levels:

  • What individual dynamics might be impacting this conflict, such as: personality, work style, the level of stress each person is experiencing, etc.
  • What group level issues might be impacting this conflict, such as: assumptions and biases of others based on stereotypes and prejudice (about both insider and outsider group memberships), the cumulative impact of having experienced similar micro-aggressions in the past, cultural norms and expectations of the various groups in the situation, etc.
  • What organizational dynamics might be impacting this conflict, such as: policies, practices, unwritten norms, organizational climate issues, etc.
  • And a fourth level/societal: What, if any, pressures and expectations from outside the organization may be impacting this situation, such as: legislative pressures, state/national budget demands, public opinion, etc.

4. In a session on effective feedback have participants identify how they would give feedback to a peer who tends to regularly interrupt and talk over them in meetings. As they are sharing their perspectives, ask some questions to infuse diversity/inclusion into the conversation:

  • What were the various group memberships of the peer you were thinking about?
  • Now imagine your peer was a different race, gender or age than in your first situation: How might you feel differently? What else might you be considering as you approach this feedback session?
  • Now imagine that it is your supervisor/professor that interrupts you frequently. How would you feel about giving them feedback? Would you approach this situation any differently than if they were a peer? or someone you supervised?

Similarly, as you discuss receiving feedback, set-up the scenario where participants are receiving feedback about their behavior. Have participants reflect on the following:

  • What might you be feeling in this situation?
  • What if the feedback is coming from a peer? your supervisor? someone who is in a “lower level” position?
  • What if the feedback comes from someone who is younger? older than you? Someone who is a different race than you? a different gender?

I hope that all of these examples support you thinking of many more ways you can support the mission and vision of your organization by infusing issues of diversity and inclusion into the courses and sessions that you teach. I believe that when we link diversity/inclusion concepts and tools to the content of courses/workshops the learners can more easily transfer these tools in their day-to-day activities and use an Inclusion Lens in all their responsibilities. In the next post I’ll explore some basic skills and concepts to include in a foundational workshop where the core content is diversity and inclusion.

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Part 3: Infusing Diversity and Inclusion Into Everything We Do

Most facilitators of courses and training sessions can infuse issues of diversity and inclusion to a far greater extent than they currently do. In my first two posts (below this post starting from the bottom) I explore ways to infuse diversity using the metaphor of creating a layer cake ~ starting with a solid foundation:

Layer 1

  1. Acknowledge the organization’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all members.
  2. “Do no harm.”
  3. Encourage participants to recognize the full breadth of differences in the organization and those they serve.
  4. Begin to explore their role and responsibility in creating an inclusive organization for all members.

Layer 2

  1. Use examples and images that shift the traditional ways of depicting people based on their Insider and Outsider group memberships.
  2. Design activities to minimize any negative differential impact on members of different social identity groups by race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, level, age, ability/disability, etc.

The 3rd layer of infusing diversity and inclusion involves our role as facilitators. While the content of our sessions, the WHAT we teach, is important, I believe that HOW we teach may be equally, if not more, critical to participant learning and retention. In subsequent posts I will focus on more advanced facilitation tools, but in this post I explore some basic ways most every facilitator can infuse diversity and inclusion by the following actions:

  1. Design activities so participants interact with and learn from a wide variety of people.
  2. Invite verbal participation from a full range of participants across group memberships.
  3. Acknowledge the input and contributions across the range of group memberships.
  4. Pay attention to the content of what is discussed and notice which issues of diversity are discussed and which, if any, are not; and invite participants to broaden the conversation.
  5. Track group dynamics for common unproductive behaviors that undermine authentic dialogue; and respond in ways that re-establish a productive learning environment.

Whether one is teaching about stress management, world history, effective communication, career skills, or economics, these facilitation tools can help create the container to deepen learning as well as infuse issues of diversity and inclusion.

1. Design activities so participants interact with and learn from a wide variety of people.

When facilitators let participants form their own discussion groups without any direction, most people seem to choose to work with those they already know and with whom they feel comfortable ~ usually people who are much like themselves. Encouraging/requiring participants to interact with people different from themselves provides the opportunity to broaden their perspectives as well as increase their comfort working across differences. Below are a few ways to form more diverse working groups:

  • Use activities that require interaction with new people: concentric circles or a BINGO activity provides a structure that has participants easily talk with a variety of new people.
  • Form groups randomly by counting off, pre-assign group #’s that are listed on their handouts or name tags, or use a quick icebreaker: find a new partner who….(is wearing the same color as you; is in a different type of job than you; who grew up in a different state or country than you…)
  • State: “I believe we learn more when we interact with the widest range of people as possible. So as I move you into different groups in this session/course, please work to meet new people and have conversations with those you don’t know very well.”
  • State: “Many people tend to work with and socialize with those that are more like themselves. So in this session/course, I’d like you to intentionally seek out people who are different from you in some way…so we can broaden our connections and learn from as many people as possible. So as you form pairs or a small group, pay attention to making them as diverse as possible by group memberships, such as years of experience, age, job function, race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

2. Invite verbal participation from a full range of participants across group memberships.

It may be useful to increase your awareness of who, by group membership, is participating during large group discussions. I often need to intentionally pay attention and track who shares in the room and see any patterns by age, level in the organization, sex/gender, race, etc. More often people with multiple memberships in insider/dominant groups tend to speak up more frequently and talk for longer periods of time. The major exception to this pattern has occurred during discussions related directly to issues of inclusion and diversity, when members of multiple dominant groups tend to be far more quiet during the conversation. Regardless of the particular pattern, if facilitators notice an imbalance of participation, they can use a variety of tools to encourage a broader range of voices, including:

  • I’d like to hear from some new voices….from people we haven’t heard from lately….
  • I’m appreciating this conversation, and I’d like to broaden the number of voices. Who else has something to add?
  • I’m noticing that a few people are sharing their perspectives, but we haven’t heard from a number of folks yet….I’d like to open up the space for people who haven’t yet shared….
  • I believe the learning is far deeper when we explore a wide variety of perspectives. Who else has something to add that may be different from what has already been said?
  • I’m noticing that most of the folks who have shared recently are managers; I’m curious what some of the rest of the staff think about this topic?
  • I’m appreciating the comments so far, and most seem to be from people who are newer in the organization. I’m curious what people who have over 15 years experience think?

Facilitators can also use various learning methods to increase verbal participation, including:

  • Buzz pairs: Partner participants with someone they don’t know well and give them 2 minutes to talk about whatever is NOT being talked about, i.e., ideas, reactions, solutions, feelings, etc. Then ask for short report outs from each dyad or move back into a large group discussion.
  • Buzz then brainstorm: After the 2-minute buzz session, have participants brainstorm what they discussed and chart their ideas. Then start the large group discussion based on what was charted.
  • Stations activity: Identify 4-6+ topics you want ideas/input on. Put one topic at the top of each piece of chart paper. Divide participants into small groups and assign each group 1 chart. Give them 3+ minutes to brainstorm and list ideas; then move each group to another “station,” and ask them to review what’s already written, and brainstorm other ideas. You can also ask them to put a check mark by ideas they like. Pull group back together and have a large group discussion.
  • Individual reflection time: Give each participant a 3×5 card and ask them to individually write an idea/solution. Collect them anonymously and read into the group. Options: chart them all; have people read them into the group; post them on the wall and ask people to go around and read them. Note: You can use this activity to gather feelings and/or reactions ~ Ask participants to individually write how they’re currently feeling ~ gather anonymously, and have people read them into group. Lead a discussion of how people relate to the feelings/reactions they heard.
  • To explore the pros/cons of an idea in more depth: Give participants time to think about at least 1 pro and 1 con for the idea. Then go around the room and:
    • Each person shares 1 positive outcome of this idea
    • Then each person shares a possible pitfall or draw back

Variation: Form dyads or triads and ask them to generate 3 pros and 3 possible draw backs without discussing them. Then have groups report these into the room.

  • Perspective taking: Form small groups and assign each 1 perspective to represent. Give them 10 minutes to discuss and be ready to share:
    • What issues might someone with this perspective have?
    • What concerns?
    • What ideas for moving forward?
  • Pick-a-question activity: Ask each person to write a question or issue on a 3×5 card that they want discussed by the group. Collect these and put into a basket. Ask for a volunteer to pick one out (without looking at it) and respond/answer in the large group. Then invite others to comment.
  • Use a Standing Continuum to take the temperature of the group: Ask participants to stand on a continuum from 0-10 that reflects their feelings, attitudes, perceived skill level, perceived knowledge level, readiness level, etc. Then have them notice any patterns about where people are standing; and have then turn to a partner to discuss why they stood where they did; then discuss as a large group.

3. Acknowledge and engage the input and contributions across the range of group memberships.

I have been in too many sessions where the facilitator seemed far more enthusiastic about some people’s comments than others; and upon reflection, I often noticed a pattern by group membership of whose comments were acknowledged and engaged, and who’s seemed to “plop” and go unaddressed. Unfortunately, I notice this same unconscious pattern in myself at times!

Research of teachers has shown the tendency to call on and positively reinforce the comments of boys more than girls ~ even after the teachers were made aware of their unconscious behaviors! And research has also shown that counselors tend to treat young, attractive clients more positively than those that do not fall into these group memberships. In my experience I have observed participants who have multiple insider/dominant group memberships often get more time and attention than those who have multiple outsider/subordinated group memberships. For example, in most types of sessions (not stand alone diversity and inclusion workshops) I see the comments of leaders get more attention than those from students or lower level employees, the comments of whites get more serious consideration than those of people of color, the input of men get assumed to be accurate while the comments from women are more often questioned, and the comments from older, more experienced participants given more credibility than those from younger, newer participants.

I have to be very intentional to offset any unconscious bias I have, and instead, consistently respond equitably to all participants as I work to find a way to use their comments to further learning goals. It is critical that facilitators pay close attention to how they acknowledge and respond to participants across identity groups, and to become increasingly aware of any unconscious biases or tendencies to favor some groups over others. Making sure that we give everyone, regardless of group memberships, the same degree of attention and respect models a key principle of diversity and inclusion and increases the chances for a more productive and engaging learning environment.

4. Pay attention to the content of what is discussed and notice which issues of diversity are discussed and which, if any, are not; and invite participants to broaden the conversation.

As we infuse issues of diversity into the content of courses and workshops, it is important to pay attention to which topics of inclusion get addressed and which, if any, tend to not get on the table for discussion. I believe it is usually helpful to use a broad range of examples and situations that depict a full breadth of differences so that participants can continue to deepen their cultural competencies to serve the increasingly diverse client/customer/student populations.

I find it helpful when facilitating to track the conversation regularly and notice the issues being discussed. If I notice that only a few topics of diversity are being addressed, I might ask the group to reflect on its process:

  • “As you think about the last 10 minutes or so of conversation, what topics of diversity have we been discussing? As we continue I’d like us to also broaden the conversation to also include other issues of difference.”
  • “What are you noticing about the types of topics we are discussing? Any thoughts about why this might be? Who can bring in another topic of difference to add to our conversation?”

Another common dynamic I track is that some groups tend to avoid or move away from certain topics whenever they come up or not engage them as readily. In these situations I might respond in an attempt to raise awareness of this pattern as well as re-center a broader range of issues in the conversation:

  • It seems that whenever we start talking about issues of race, someone changes the topic back to age or sexual orientation. Has anyone else noticed this? What do you think might be under this dynamic?
  • I’m noticing that the only time we talk about issues of gender or sexism is when a woman brings it up. Anyone else track this? Why might this be happening in our group?

 5. Track group dynamics for common unproductive behaviors that undermine the learning goals; and respond in ways that re-establish a productive learning environment.

Another way that facilitators can infuse attention to diversity and inclusion in their courses and workshops is to consistently create and maintain a learning environment where all participants are treated with respect. In subsequent posts I will explore ways to respond to these as well as more blatant, prejudicial comments and behaviors. In this 3rd layer of infusing inclusion it is important for facilitators to track the more subtle participant behaviors that feel disrespectful and disruptive to other participants, and to respond in ways to re-establish a sense of safety, connectedness, and respect.

Review the following list of unproductive participant behaviors as you consider these questions:

  1. How often do you notice participants engaging in the following behaviors?
  2. How, if at all, do these behaviors impact others and undermine learning outcomes?
  3. Are there any patterns, by group membership, of who behaves in these ways.
  • Interrupt and talk over others
  • Ignore the ideas and input from other participants
  • Talk more frequently and for longer periods of time than other participants
  • Often are the first to speak
  • Pay far more attention and give more credibility to the ideas and input from members of insider/dominant groups (people who are top leaders and managers, more experienced, older, men, white, heterosexual, Christian, gender-conforming, attractive, or light-skinned, etc.)
  • Minimize or dismissed the feelings, perspectives, and experiences of others
  • Get defensive and argue without first seeking to understand the other’s perspective
  • Belittle, make fun of, or judge the comments of others
  • Put down others or make snide/sarcastic comments
  • Engage in side conversations when others are talking
  • Talk down to others in patronizing ways
  • Raise their voice or use an aggressive style to try intimidate or silence others
  • State that their view and perspective is the only right way, the best way

While people can do these behaviors out of their outsider/subordinated group memberships, there is often an additional negative impact when participants act out these behaviors from their insider/dominant group memberships towards members of outsider/subordinated groups. It is important that we increase our ability to track these unproductive dynamics and consistently intervene to ensure that all participants feel respected, heard, valued, and included in our sessions.

Regardless of the topic of the course or workshop, educators can model and teach about issues of diversity through the ways they facilitate and respond to participant comments and behaviors. It has been said that participants may not remember what they learned, but they will remember how they felt in your session. Facilitating in ways that create learning environments where people feel respected and valued, regardless of their group memberships, models the types of inclusive environments we are working to create in our organizations. We can teach about diversity and inclusion through the process of how we facilitate.

In the next few posts I will explore the next layers of infusing diversity and inclusion in educational sessions ~ directly discussing the issues of insider/outsider group memberships, discrimination/exclusion, and privilege in the content of the class/workshop.

 

 

Part 2: Infusing Diversity and Inclusion into Everything We Do

“If you see with your heart, all masks disappear.” Sufi saying

Most training and educational sessions that address topics related to interpersonal skills, team dynamics, and leadership can readily apply the 2nd layer for infusing diversity and inclusion. There are two key elements in this layer:

  1. Use examples and images that shift the traditional ways of depicting people based on their Insider and Outsider group memberships. (Note: The particular terms ~ Insider/Outsider ~ may be more understandable to most participants. I also use the terms “dominant and subordinated groups,”  “one-up/one-down groups” and “marginalized” or “under-represented groups” depending on the context of the session. I believe any of these terms can be used to teach about the inherent structural differences among social identity groups in current society with respect to power, access to resources and status, and differential treatment.) ~ and,
  2. Design activities to minimize any negative differential impact on members of different social identity groups by race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, level, age, ability/disability, etc.

1. Intentionally including stories and images that subtly challenge common stereotypes and the status quo of the organization provides participants with the opportunity to question their current attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. For example, during a class on coaching skills the facilitator can use an example of a white heterosexual male seeking support about anxiety and test-taking from an adviser who is a Latina lesbian. Or in a session on developing effective teams the trainer can use a PowerPoint image that shows a team that is diverse by a variety of differences being facilitated by co-leaders who are different by race and (perceived) gender identity. It is important to depict realistic images that depict situations that stretch the participants’ unconscious beliefs about which groups are usually good leaders, smarter, more competent, etc.

It is also critical that all participants can “see themselves” in the stories and case studies you use. A common trap is to only use images of members of marginalized/outsider groups in leadership and positive roles while having the unproductive roles depicted as members of insider/dominant groups. Balancing the images across insider/outsider groups is critical in graphics, activities, text, videos, etc. For instance, if you have 8 scenarios or stories during a session, make sure that several depict positive images of members of dominant groups as allies and effective leaders, as well as a couple situations that have members of outsider groups in roles where they are the learner or in need of some coaching and support.

2. The second aspect of this layer to infuse diversity and inclusion is to intentionally design activities to minimize any negative differential impact on members of different identity groups by race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, level, age, ability/disability, etc. When I was first facilitating sessions on diversity I was using activities that I liked and could easily facilitate…I was not conscious that some of these activities might have had a negative impact on participants depending on their group memberships. I then began to realize that many of the experiential activities were not accessible to people with some types of disabilities, including: the “Step-In” activity required people to walk into and stand in the center of the circle as well as visually observe who was in the circle and who was not, and even its name implied a certain level of privileged ability; reflective writing activities required that participants have a certain level of cognitive and physical capacity, much less a level of English proficiency. I often use an activity that invites people to first write an anonymous example of an exclusionary situation, and then read and listen to these stories in small groups ~ participants who are visually and/or hearing impaired will not have easy access, and participants with some types of learning disabilities/dyslexia may feel very uncomfortable much less unable to complete this activity. In this situation I now state the following in hopes to make this activity more universally accessible: When I ask people to write an example, I intend to also say, “If you don’t have an example you want to write about, feel free to share it verbally once you get into small groups.” And when I invite them to start reading the examples aloud in their small group I state, “And if at this moment you don’t feel like reading aloud, just pass your examples to someone else. Some people may be too tired or prefer to learn by listening right now…” One final way I am trying to use the principles of Universal Design more as I train is to use multiple senses at once. For instance, I always repeat anything I use that is in writing ~ when I use PowerPoint slides, I read aloud whatever is on the slide. And if I give verbal directions, I also have them listed on a chart pad or a slide. I usually ask about the varying accessibility of needs of participants before I design a session, and so can send the handouts and Power Points ahead to participants to upload onto their various readers, as needed.

I began to realize how many of my activities and worksheets were inaccessible in other ways when I was asked by a campus to develop trainings for the staff of the Dining and Maintenance areas. These particular participants reflected some demographic groups than I was not as used to training: most of them had not attended college, many had not completed high school, a significant minority had moved to the U.S. from countries where English was not a common language, and many had a relatively low proficiency in English writing literacy. If I had not revised my design and handouts, many of the participants would have felt negatively impacted during the session. Some ways I tried to increase the accessibility of what I was teaching, included: broadening my examples to include dynamics of nationality, and citizenship, as well as hierarchical level and social class; minimizing the amount of reading and writing that I used in activities; partnering with a translator during the sessions with employees who were Laotian and Chinese and did not speak English; shifting my terms to eliminate jargon (so much more easily said than done!); creating more opportunities for participants to share their experiences and examples, and then used these as teachable moments to explore the concepts and tools of the session; increasing the use of experiential activities to teach concepts and abstract models, and then lightly covering the key points in the debrief of the activities; including handouts that covered all of the concepts and tools in the session for those who wanted to review them to reinforce learning.

One final area where I am trying to increase my awareness of how my actions and comments negatively impact across group memberships involves issues of gender identity ~ and this may not be the most accurate term to describe what I am working on…Recently several participants have given me feedback about how I assume the gender identity of participants before they name it for themselves. For example, during a group conversation my intent was to notice that most of the comments had come from people of color and that the whites in the room had not verbally participated. I said something like, “I’m noticing that it is mostly men and women of color who have been sharing examples. I’m curious what some of the whites in the room have experienced on their campuses.” What I didn’t realize is that someone who identified as gender queer had shared a couple of stories. I had made them invisible, replicated trans oppression, by assuming everyone who had shared identified as either man or woman. Another way I gender participants is when I use she or he pronouns to refer to people before they have named their preferred pronoun…or how I unconsciously use “Sir” and “Mam” as I call on or thank participants. I am realizing how engrained these behaviors and assumptions are in me…and I intend to keep myself more conscious and work to not gender people until they have named it for themselves.

My intent of sharing all these examples of how I am trying to make my sessions more accessible is several-fold: 1) I hope you recognize I am very much on a learning curve as I try to remain conscious and shift my approaches to meet the learning needs of ALL people in the room; and my hope is that you have additional examples of how you shift more traditional diversity/inclusion activities to minimize the negative differential impact of participants based on their multiple group memberships. I look forward to learning from your comments!

Continue reading below for my 1st post ~ the 1st layer of this cake!

In my next blog I will explore the 3rd layer of this cake ~ ways to infuse diversity and inclusion into all of our training and educational sessions.

Part 1: Infusing Diversity and Inclusion into Everything We Do

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”- Goethe

As I begin this adventure into the world of blogging, my intent is to share what I know and believe about effective design and facilitation of sessions that address issues of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. As I consult with colleagues at colleges and universities across the country, more and more people are asking for the tools to not only facilitate foundational social justice 101 sessions, but also the skills to infuse inclusion throughout all of their training and development programs.

Most organizations seem to only address issues of diversity and inclusion in “stand alone” workshops or when there has been a critical, exclusionary incident. Infusing issues of diversity and inclusion into most every training session will help reinforce the organization’s commitment to creating inclusion and reinforce the messages, tools and concepts that are contained in more traditional diversity seminars.

So in this first blog I will begin to share some reflections on ways to think about the degree to which we can incorporate issues of diversity and inclusion into courses, workshops, etc. I am grateful to Bo Razak for our work together in developing the Stages of Diversity Integration, a document that has helped shape my thinking on this topic.

A helpful metaphor may be to think about infusing diversity like creating a layer cake. Everything depends upon a solid first layer ~ the foundation.

Foundational Layer

Whether it is a course exploring leadership or a training session on conflict skills, most sessions and courses can also infuse diversity into activities and facilitator comments, at least at this first layer. The intention of this foundational layer is four-fold:
1. Acknowledge the organization’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all members
2. “Do no harm”
3. Encourage participants to recognize the full breadth of differences in the organization and those they serve
4. Begin to explore their role and responsibility in creating an inclusive organization for all members
Below I explore these four areas in greater detail.

1. Acknowledge the organization’s commitment to inclusion:
It is important to ground educational sessions within the mission, vision, and values of the organization to help participants understand why they are being asked/required to care about issues of diversity and inclusion. Most organizations have statements that express their commitment to create an inclusive environment where all members feel respected, valued, and supported to contribute to their full potential. In addition, many organizations have statements about the quality of service they expect their members to provide to their “customers,” whether they are students, community members, clients, etc. It is important that participants understand the key benefits of an inclusive environment to the organization, their team, their “customers,” as well as to themselves in their career.

2. “Do no harm”:
This concept involves two aspects ~ the content /topic of discussion and the process of the conversation. Content: It is critical that facilitators ensure that what they present is free of stereotypical images. Whether their learning methods include videos/YouTube segments, case studies, personal stories, readings, PowerPoint images and graphics, etc., ~ all of these need to reflect people and ideas that in no way reinforce the pervasive, and often subtle, stereotypes and negative assumptions about marginalized groups. Process: It is vital that facilitators consistently observe and pay attention to group dynamics, and, when someone makes a disrespectful comment or acts in ways that are exclusionary, it is imperative that the facilitator respond in ways that, at a minimum, creates greater inclusion, if not also acknowledges the unproductive comment/behavior. Responses can be anywhere along this continuum: Redirect – Indirect – Direct ~ but it is most important that facilitators do not collude and stay silent in the moment. Occasionally I have decided to wait a few minutes to see if a participant will address the unproductive situation…and there are times I have not noticed the dynamic until after the fact ~ but we can always revisit a situation after it happens. One final thought about the process ~ when we as facilitators say and do things that reinforce stereotypes or are uninclusive, we have an obligation to reflect on our behavior and use the situation as a “teachable moment” for the group. It can be a powerful moment when facilitators model humility and openness to feedback after we have unintentionally done something that does not align with our values, group norms, and the learning outcomes.

3. Encourage participants to recognize the full breadth of differences in the organization and those they serve: It is important that participants recognize the full range of differences among people with whom they interact and serve. Facilitators can be intentional to ensure they use a wide variety of examples that depict people from varying races and ethnic groups (Asian American/Pacific Islander, Latino/a, White, Multiracial/Biracial, African American/Black, Native American/American Indian, Arab/Middle Eastern, etc.), as well as people who identify as women, men, or transgender. Similarly, we need to include examples of the full diversity in the organization with respect to many other categories of difference, including: class background, nationality, hierarchical level, job function, sexual orientation, age, ability/disability, educational background, relationship status, family status, religion/spirituality/ways of knowing, size/appearance, gender expression, etc. While it is improbable to include every type of difference in a 2-3 hour workshop on communication skills, effective teams, or customer service, facilitators can make sure they reference a wide variety of differences in each session, and that over several classes they have included a full range of social identity groups.

4. Begin to explore their role and responsibility in creating an inclusive organization for all members: This final element of the foundational layer of infusing diversity in educational sessions involves helping participants recognize their role and responsibility to help create and maintain an inclusive environment for everyone. Whether they are 1st year students, seniors or faculty/teachers, whether they are mid-level managers, entry-level staff or administrators ~ ALL members of the organization are responsible for actively doing their part to create greater inclusion and to interrupt disrespectful, exclusionary situations. In addition to emphasizing their critical role in proactively creating greater inclusion, it is also important to remind participants of any organizational behavioral expectations and related policies for which they will be held accountable if their actions undermine inclusion.

In future few blogs I will explore the next components of this layer cake for infusing diversity into everything we do.