Curious internal comms and HR pros sent a host of questions to our panel at our recent webinar on communicating D&I authentically. We heard loud and clear that support is needed to elevate the topic of diversity and inclusion in communications, but a passionate panel and a limited window meant we couldn’t answer everything live.
With so many interesting, complex and relatable situations shared, these questions deserve answering here.
There’s a big argument in favour of diverse representation – because it raises aspirations for others and busts myths about how inclusive or otherwise your industry is. The safest way to broach this sensitive topic is to talk to the people involved and make sure they’re comfortable.
Taking the first step is nerve-wracking and it does come with risk. There will always be people who are ignorant and bigoted OR overly sensitive and looking for something to complain about. We can’t let those people put us off, though, otherwise we’d never do anything!
If I were starting from scratch, I’d approach this in two ways:
In starting ‘gently’ like this, you can gauge the reaction of your audience and start gathering feedback. You might also start getting volunteers to come forward and share their stories.
Ultimately, communicating D&I is a positive thing. Be confident with it and get comfortable with what is and isn’t your job – you can influence sentiment, but you can’t control it.
In internal comms, we’re ultimately at the mercy of our leaders in terms of how much the organisation will invest in D&I and really change some things for the better. But some actions are within our control.
Whatever you do, it has to be authentic. I’d suggest a combination of the following:
There’s a few options you could take:
One thing that really struck me in the weeks after George Floyd’s killing was the proactive dismantling of common phrases – like ‘I don’t see colour’ and ‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘I’m white but I grew up poor, so I’m not privileged’. There were creative and succinct ready-written responses all over Instagram and LinkedIn that showed how these weren’t fair to say.
That presents an opportunity for you as a communicator to share them in the spirit of ‘these might be helpful to you’, or even encourage employees to share the ones they found useful themselves. What’s best about this is that you’re handing over the mic and letting people articulate it themselves, rather than doing it for them.
People are like onions – they have many layers. Different aspects will have altered their life experiences and therefore who they are today. Some aspects benefit us, while others create disadvantage. People with minority characteristics tend to experience more disadvantage. When two or more of these characteristics combine, or ‘intersect’, an individual is likely to experience even more disadvantage.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the phrase, explains with a story. She said how the narrative about police violence in the US is very well known. Stories regularly appear in the media about brutality against Black men and White women. However, stories about violence against Black women were rarely seen. Their intersecting characteristics – their gender and their race – meant that they did not fall into a comfortable narrative that viewers were familiar with, so their stories simply weren’t told.
When we talk about intersectionality, we’re usually referring to the fact that people are more than their obvious minority characteristics, and that some characteristics are more commonly talked about than others. Mental health is an example of a topic that, in recent years, has featured much more predominantly in large organisations – thanks to the efforts of campaigners and role models who shared their own stories and battled against stigmas.
If you’re addressing D&I with authenticity, you’ll be featuring people talking about all aspects of themselves and how those intersecting characteristics have resulted in who they are today.
We could talk about this topic so much more – and we do. It really is a huge priority for so many of our clients. Our tailored D&I narrative generating session will help set your communications off in the right direction. Find out more here