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  • Writer's pictureShellene Drakes

Claiming inclusivity

How you communicate with your clients is key to how they perceive you, your brand, and your business. In today’s world, we can’t communicate like in the past. Today, we can’t post pictures of an all-white, male staff and claim inclusivity—that’s not the social or cultural landscape today.

Today? Words and ideas like equity, anti-racism, anti-oppression, white privilege, colonization, intersectionality are necessary to understand—not from a theoretical perspective, but a practical perspective—so you can serve your clients, employees, stakeholders, communities.

Creating content through an anti-racism and equity lens takes into consideration these ideas and centres conversation around the people in our community, crafting stories that engage and resonate.

If you’re claiming that your company or your brand is inclusive, I have to ask: are you really?

What are you doing?

Are you creating content that’s not centred on whiteness? Meaning, are you making a concerted effort to ensure that all people are represented in your brand and your communications.

Being inclusive isn’t just posting a story about the Chinese New Year potluck at the office on the intranet or a video about the latest diversity conference that your HR leader went to. It’s about actually posting genuine stories that highlight the diverse groups at your organization. It’s about making everyone feel accepted and realizing that nothing is neutral—from the story you choose to write and the images you decide to put with it to the video you film.

Creating inclusive content isn’t always easy. It means realizing we all have bias—just by virtue of interacting with people and dealing with life situations. The question is, what are your biases and how do they affect how you communicate?

An easy win? Take the Harvard Implicit Bias test to get an idea of where you stand and what biases you have. Trust me, we all have biases and prejudices that we have to figure out.

Now that you have an idea of what your biases are, how do you mitigate for them? How do you build trust with your clients and employees and not seem like you’re checking the ‘diversity is great!’ box?

Best answer: hire some racialized, Indigenous and marginalized people. Diverse people and diverse thought, background and experience create better outcomes.

Seriously. Many problems that organizations face in terms of cultural appropriation, racism, and insensitive communications happen because the room is all white. You can’t know you’re offending people if everyone at the table looks alike, right?

Discussing racism and asking these hard questions does not reap up racism. Racism has been here and is still an issue. See Dolce & Gabbana, H&M, Gucci, Prada, GM, Papa John’s, Radio 702, Parliament Hill, Quebec hockey league, Toronto Police Service, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Honestly, as a Black woman, I am annoyed, but not surprised by all of these stories. I mean, I can tell you my own stories if you have some time and want to treat me to some coffee. I’ve been around long enough to realize there will always be racists and racism.

We can debate my stance on that at a later date. But what isn’t debatable is that those people are employed by companies around the world—potentially yours—and they will screw up your brand and your reputation.

So, we have to mitigate for the racists lurking in the boardroom and the bias at the table.

There’s only one way to do that: don’t ‘claim’ inclusivity, be inclusive. Make sure there are diverse people making the decisions with you. Let them feel free to speak their minds. Ask them questions. Tell their stories—better yet, let them tell their stories so they are genuine. Recognize your bias and your privilege and don’t centre yourself in everything.

But the question remains: what steps are you going take to be inclusive?

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