Defining Diversity and Inclusion - By Graciela MeibarMy definition of diversity is that it includes everyone. So to say that it is important to include everyone in the diversity discussion might seem redundant from my perspective. However, I say it because this is not a common definition for diversity. Some definitions of diversity might include minorities and women, but I find these definitions limiting. If diversity did not include everyone, how do you then go about developing strategies for the workplace where we interact with everyone who is part of the team or organization?
In April of this year, I met two dear friends and advisors on diversity and inclusion, and we were discussing the state of our work. One of them said a phrase that resonated with me. The phrase was: “Diversity is a reality; inclusion is a choice.” “That is it,” I said to them. Diversity is a reality, it is the way of life today, maybe it was always, and we just did not see it as being so, and inclusion is the choice we individually make as it relates to others. Who do we include in our circle of friends, colleagues and team members?
More and more each day we are experiencing diversity in our lives, be it in the workplace or our private families. We have the ability to connect with more people of different backgrounds each day, and with the rapid growth of connections and numerous opportunities to interact we are making choices all the time as to whom we include in our activities. That choice to include or not is up to us. And “us” can be the organization I work for, the leader of a team at work, the parent of a child who plays sports with other children at a neighborhood park, or me as the member of a group at a church or social event.
Inclusion is a choice we make, individually or collectively, and it sets the tone for any organization. It’s how we behave towards others that is different. Do we include them in the group dialogue and discussion, or do we feel that there is no room within the group for another opinion or perspective? Inclusion is allowing for difference of opinions and perspectives to exist within a group and still be able to work well together; it is the understanding that people have different needs and perspectives and accepting that your point of view is only one of many.
I work for a multinational corporation with offices in over 45 countries all around the world, and we are constantly interacting with folks in different countries who perform different job functions. We have to interact with others all over the world to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. How well we do our jobs and achieve our objectives depends on how we include others in the process and how others include me. I remember times when I did not feel included in the team and those where not the times where I felt the most engaged in the process. When you don’t feel that you are part of a team, or you don’t feel engaged by others, there is a feeling of being an outsider and that leads to a possible reluctance of giving your best effort.
As someone who learned English as a second language at the age of 12, I still speak with a Spanish\Cuban accent – an accent that is there and that is a part of me. Some have said I could have worked harder to get rid of it, however, it is there and it has lead to some people making judgments about me. I have had experiences when people make fun of me because I might mispronounce or incorrectly say a phrase in English. And while I take the responsibility to speak correctly in English seriously, I feel that for others to make fun of me when I make a mistake is not the best approach. I don’t mind being corrected; I actually appreciated it. It is when people purposely make fun of me due to my accent that I feel embarrassed and like an outsider. I have learned to deal with it, but it is still quite uncomfortable. So if I feel this way just because of an accent, imagine what others feel for showing more pronounced differences. What most people don’t see is that behind my accent is also the ability to speak another language, and we need to ask ourselves what other abilities and ideas do people have that could benefit their organization.
My role as head of diversity for Mattel, Inc. is about changing the culture of the organization to facilitate and improve business goals and/or organizational objectives through the process of inclusion for all at the company, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, educational background, religion, physical ability and management level, to name just a few. Diversity is everyone; inclusion is ensuring everyone works together to achieve common goals and objectives.
Graciela G. Meibar is Vice President of global sales training and global diversity for Mattel, Inc. and is a member of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Editorial Board.