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Conversations about diversity don’t stop at hearing about someone’s personal identity. Productive, eye-opening and fascinating conversations can come from talking about the world around us.

Here are three ways to get off the starting blocks and have bigger, deeper and bolder conversations about diversity and inclusion.

Think bigger than the world of work. Talking about the outside world can illuminate perspectives inside your organisation’s walls.

Some examples:

  • A country changes legislation relating to gay marriage
  • A celebrity you love has spoken publically about their experience of prejudice
  • A Paralympic sports event has made you think about life with a disability in a new way
  • A company is called out in a PR scandal for ageist practices
  • National newspapers are full of the latest gender pay gap figures

In their pocket guide to talking about race, Business in the Community (BITC) bill two-way mentoring as the top suggestion for learning about experiences of race from one another. Essentially, it means a pair goes deep and shares their perspectives, experiences, and advice in equal measure.

Practically how might you do this?

  • Set up informal coffee and lunch meetings with colleagues that are different ages/genders/races to you and swap stories about how you each got to where you are, your current challenges and your ambitions for the future.
  • Challenge your team members to make a connection at the company and have four two-way mentoring sessions. You could select the contact for them or let them find the contact themselves.

⚡ Top tip

Executive coach Geraldine Gallacher states that male-female mentoring helps gender diversity providing advice is put into context and tested. The woman must think critically about any advice the man gives and explain how it might work in her case. And vice versa.

For example “I would just ‘be more assertive’ but, for some reason, an assertive woman can be less likeable than an assertive man. Let me practice being assertive and see your reaction?”.

Dr. Diane Hamilton, a thought-leader on building culture, says that building empathy into culture begins by being curious about and perceptive of what is happening around you.

What sort of things can you look out for and begin an insightful discussion around?

You might notice:

  • the majority of applicants for your open role are women
  • the results of your annual survey say many more people have a disability in the company than you originally thought
  • the food available in the office building doesn’t cater to Halal diets

.    .    .

Braving eye-opening conversations about diversity and our differences needn’t be a minefield. Broach new and productive conversations about diversity and identity by talking about current affairs, trying two-way mentoring and voicing what you observe at work.

For deep topics, use concepts from our D&I glossary.

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