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Beyond Differences – Toward Inclusion

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde, feminist and civil rights activist, 1934-1992

When millions of people participated Jan. 21 in the Women’s March on Washington and in cities worldwide, their voices and presence were intended to send a signal to the new administration, according to a variety of news reports.

After the rhetoric of the past election season, which organizers of the march say insulted, demonized and threatened many women, immigrants, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, LGBTQIA, native people, black, brown, those with disabilities and survivors of sexual assault, marchers “joined in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.”

The Women’s March on Washington’s website goes on to say that the group intends to be “defenders of human rights because women’s rights are human rights.”

Based on a review of national and international reporting, the reasons marchers gave for participating had common themes from support for women’s reproductive rights, demanding attention for the less privileged or ensuring equality.

According to a report in a Wisconsin newspaper about the march in Washington, D.C., (Jan. 22, Leader-Telegram), many marchers had previous activist experience, including one woman who said she once marched against the Cambodian civil war in 1970 and another, Michele Siegel, who started a long stretch of activism about 50 years ago, holding a poster stating: “Tired of holding this sign since 1960s.”

That’s how grandmothers and mothers may have felt during the march as well – that they had worked hard for causes, thinking there had been progress, only to be back at it once more with their daughters and granddaughters, sons and grandsons, noted the newspaper report.

Regardless of your politics, organizations that believe diversity and inclusion can lead to higher profits, better business decisions and higher levels of employee engagement should take the marchers seriously. They intend to stay in the news with a promise of 10 actions for the first 100 days. Up first, a post card campaign to U.S. senators for activists to list “what matters most to you.”

The message to those of us who care about diversity and inclusion is to stay alert for news coverage and potential legal activity that could affect our organizations.

In addition, we should:

  • Ensure that our diversity and inclusion efforts don’t stagnate. For example, if your organization has taken steps to address equal pay, what topic could be approached next? Are there other diversity and inclusion issues to shine a light on?

  • Be alert to changing trends or emerging issues as your workplace changes with each new hire, which could include more people of color and of various ages.

  • If your employees seem to be more politically interested, sponsor information sessions with speakers of all political persuasions.

  • Ensure that your employees have access to registration and voter information.

  • Clear any workplace hurdles for employees who may be interested in running for local offices.

  • Be sure that interested employees have access to Political Action Committee information if your company sponsors such an organization.

Finally, vow to continue to be inclusive of employees who are interested in causes and activism. It’s a business imperative!

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