Sustaining Conversations About Diversity and Inclusion at WorkMinah Kim Apr 11, 2022 10:00 AM
A renewed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace has shone a light on the importance of connecting with co-workers and creating a safe environment for open dialogue. And one way to proactively facilitate this dialogue is through book-club style discussion groups.
Discussing topics like implicit bias, systemic racism, intersectionality, and bystander intervention at work offers an opportunity to connect with co-workers, openly address workplace challenges, and create solutions together. The simplicity of these events usually mitigates administrative burdens and bureaucratic hurdles, and they only require a few people and a few hours of planning to get them off the ground.
Here is a simple guide to facilitating meaningful and intentional conversations about DEI at work.
Planning a diversity and inclusion discussion group
Think of this group as a flexible book club. Each session, the group reviews and discusses a short article, book chapter, or video.
Once you have selected a topic or resource, add a one-hour session to your shared calendar and invite co-workers. Share the resources beforehand so that people have time to read and digest the materials on their own, but mention that there will be time set aside at the beginning of the session for everyone to get up to speed. People may not have time to read an article or watch a video before the session but can still have the opportunity to participate.
Finding topics and articles to discuss
Here are some suggested resources, but feel free to crowdsource ideas and ask colleagues what topics they would be interested in exploring. The facilitator does not need to be an expert on the topic, but should feel comfortable asking questions and discussing the material.
Facilitating an open dialogue
Preparing discussion questions will help with facilitation and guiding the conversation, but ultimately, the objective is an open and honest back and forth. Some of these discussions can be challenging and sensitive, so start with ground rules or a community agreement to ensure a safe environment for people to learn and explore.
Here are some general discussion questions to help you get started. Tailor the questions to the topics and materials for a more fruitful discussion.
Sustaining DEI conversations
These conversations will often be met with enthusiasm and appetite for more and you may find that you need a team of people to distribute the work as well as to advocate for its importance across your organization. Here are ways to continue to expand and maintain your efforts:
The goal with these discussions is to learn, grow, and actively participate in creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment. With the understanding that systemic change requires change on national, organizational, team, and individual levels, these discussions will help create a workplace culture of accountability and understanding.
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Minah Kim is a writer based in Brooklyn. She is a labor and community organizer with experience in the healthcare and professional services sectors.