Embracing diversity within us
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is important. It is important to talk about what must be celebrated and in what still needs to be fought. Often times we think that if we talk about something that is “negative” that something increases almost as an automatic result of talking about it. Is not true. My experience as a coach and lawyer working on human rights for over 10 years tells me the opposite: it is important to talk about the things that bother us or that make us feel uncomfortable. It is the first step to better deal with them, resolve them or accept them.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is an important topic to talk about, especially for those who do not have access to the same resources, for those who have been systematically discriminated against or treated as “others”, in an unequal way.
It is important to recognize that there are visible characteristics that differentiate us just as there are invisible characteristics that differentiate us. About 80% of our diversity is invisible.
But to talk about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion it is important, first of all, to look inside ourselves and recognize our own diversity, visible and invisible.
I am a woman, cisgender, heterosexual, white in Portugal and “woman of color” in the USA. I am Portugugese, married to an American, and I have two children with an identity different from mine. A biracial, neuro-diverse daughter with a Bissau-Guinean father, and a son whose father is American and who will be labeled as the typical white male in the future. Same as his American Father.
The first challenge for anyone who talks about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is to embrace and recognize their own diversity, where they come from and the diversity of their family.
What aspects of diversity do we embrace and welcome without hesitation? And what aspects do we not show, are we ashamed of or about which we feel we can be judged?
These aspects of us can become obstacles if not recognized, they can become a kind of weight that pulls us down when we try to take steps to move forward.
Whether I´m using coaching or training on human rights issues, such as gender equality or the fight against violence against children and women, the first job to do is to encourage participants to look in the mirror: what aspects of themselves are to resist when it comes to welcoming others and in their difference or vulnerability? Sometimes there is guilt for not having done anything before, other times it is the discomfort of not knowing how to deal with the difference of the other, there is also the weight of education and the environment where they grew up, which conditioned them to think and feel in a certain way.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is important. And we need to start with our own diversity:
What aspects of diversity in myself do I recognize and embrace without hesitation?
What aspects of diversity in myself do I not like to think about or talk about?
What am I "othering" in myself that could be preventing me from taking my next step?
Until this work is done, nothing will change and nothing will be transformed.
Sara Guerreiro, CPDC, PCC