Starting the conversation about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace
Written by Stella Tsoutsouri on 15th July 2021
At Devhouse Spindle, we have 4 core values that drive all of the activity in the company: evolving, supportive, equal, and open. These 4 words seem simple, but everything from our products to our hiring process and how we work with each other reflects these values. When you work with these values in mind, different topics and conversations start to emerge. One example of this is the topic of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. With this in mind, our colleague Stella started to put her ideas into action by becoming the Diversity and Inclusion Facilitator for Spindle.
To share what is being done internally about these important topics, we asked her a few questions about what she is doing to activate colleagues and raise awareness in this area.
Can you explain in a nutshell what you do in your role as Diversity and Inclusion facilitator?
As the diversity and inclusion facilitator, I take a close look at the workplace at Spindle and see how I can start conversations to facilitate positive growth. Having a safe place to work fits in the values we have as a company, and through my role, I can draw attention to this topic and start conversations and work to ensure Spindle is a safe environment. This is a very new role in Spindle which gives us the opportunity to only build and constantly take another step forward.
Currently we are conducting multiple interviews internally to become aware of the constraints in our working environment regarding diversity. We are collecting and processing data that hopefully will answer some of our questions, as well as suggest changes and additions to already existing processes while also investigating the available facilities in the building. We’ve also reached out to external parties to identify potential cooperations. This is work completed with everyone’s contribution in the organization which automatically is a great start for making diversity and inclusion a vital component of our working environment. Working this way ensures everyone becomes aware and included.
What do diversity and inclusivity mean and what is the difference?
To make sure everyone is on the same page, I found a definition of both words: “Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In the workplace that can mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender or any other number of things. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging and support from the organization.” Something that you can’t hide or avoid right? Is in front of us every day, it is part of our society that constantly changes and every generation adds something new!
Why are you focusing on both diversity and inclusivity?
Diversity is a fact. It exists because we are all so different in so many ways which leads to making ourselves aware of each other’s needs, ideas, and opinions and finding acceptance of those differences. Whereas with inclusivity, you verify that everybody is welcomed and included. Doing this allows you to make sure there are no constraints that create differences in the opportunities available for each colleague’s growth and development. You just don’t wait for the exemption to stand out and point out what’s not functional for them, you think and provide in advance. By focusing on both topics together, I can find out the facts, and at the same time verify the needs of each group within the organization.
Was there a moment or situation that made you realize that you wanted to fulfill this role?
I was active outside of my work at Spindle with multiple organizations and initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion where I would help in multiple ways because I loved how much I learned by questioning my beliefs, actions, and ideas. This led to people inside the company to reach out to me and ask for feedback regarding initiatives or discuss ideas about diversity. It created this domino effect of multiple discussions and it grew to be more and more with time. Diversity and Inclusivity is a topic that’s been on people’s minds since 2018 but someone had to do the first step, and that is where I came in. This is also the tricky part of Holacracy, we decide on what we want to do but sometimes we struggle with taking the first step and then “boom”, it happens and everything rolls out smoothly.
What groups in the organization are you focusing on right now?
I started interviews with the parents community first because this is the biggest group we have identified at the moment in Spindle and also it is the group constantly growing at a quicker rate due to the age increase. These interviews are now completed and I have already started interviewing the LGBTQIA+ community in order to understand more about their experience internally and what works or doesn’t for them. This is also one of our advantages due to the size of the company, it is really easy to talk with everybody and identify pros and cons in the environment and address them in order to set a solid foundation and focus on the next steps for an inclusive environment.
How do you include colleagues and stimulate them to think along with you?
I mostly use Slack channels and tactical meetings for sharing progress in different projects and gaining insights. Pizza sessions, our version of a company-wide meeting, will be used for presenting the internal reports when they are finalized. We already had one company-wide meeting where the vision and goal of the role was shared. I keep a fixed day dedicated to this role where I usually focus only on work related to this (but of course not every week is the same). Plus, every time when I speak, share, or ask anything related to this topic in the organization, I make sure to mention that anyone should feel free to reach out for questions, discussions, and ideas anytime. Last but not least, we also have the Internal Communication Advisor role where I can reach out and ask for any guidance on how and where to communicate information related to my research with the organization.
What groups in the organization would you like to talk with and support in the future?
All of them actually! This is the goal, to reach out to everyone and learn more about them which will help in understanding each other and make cooperating easier. We need to discuss people of color, women, mental health, disabilities, invisible disabilities, expats, religion and the list goes on!
Work surrounding topics like diversity and inclusivity will never be finished. However we believe that as colleagues, it is important to keep the conversation going and work together to make sure that each and every colleague feels welcome and included in our workplace. Do you have experience with how to drive this and other important conversations in a professional setting? We are always open to new perspectives and would love to hear your experiences. Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels.