To support National Inclusion Week 2023, we are asking ‘What does inclusion mean in the workplace?’. Nefo Yuki-Igbinosa who joined the PSA for three weeks in September as part of our Work Experience Scheme shares her thoughts on what an inclusive workplace looks like. Nefo spent time shadowing colleagues across the PSA before heading off to study English at University. Having previously worked as a tutor, Nefo was keen to get a flavour of a corporate environment and the different roles within it.
"The mistake that many employers and organisations make when it comes to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is that their approach lacks humanity. This is the difference between equality and equity.
Of course, organisations will not operate in the same way that a single individual would, and so naturally attempts at inclusion will differ. But the issue is that inclusion is not about equality but rather equity. It is about a combination of being proactive in celebrating differences, but also reactive in responding to the needs of those in your organisation.
Ultimately this can be reduced to acknowledging those that you work with and respecting their differences.
For example, I am a black woman with 4c hair, and I was tasked with playing back a recording of a meeting and taking the minutes. The headset proved quite a challenge to get over my head and my hair as a result of my hair’s volume. Naturally, I think we all tend to shrink away from speaking up if we need a adjustment, which is something that the workplace needs to normalise in order for all staff to feel included, but I digress.
Despite my silence, my co-worker noticed my difficulty in getting the headset over my head, as well as my resulting discomfort when I finally managed to. Her observation did not end when I succeeded in putting the headset on, but she thought deeply about whether I was truly comfortable, and what she could do to help. She then suggested that I could have a go at connecting my personal headphones, as they would obviously be more comfortable for me. This is where inclusion begins. My co-worker saw me as an equal who was entitled to just as much comfort as she was.
Equality is giving me the same headphones as my co-worker, but equity is taking my physical differences into account. Equity is giving me headphones of the same quality, but perhaps in a different model that would fit over my hair a bit better. It is equity that truly makes members of staff feel included.
In this year’s National Inclusion Week, perhaps keep an extra eye out on your colleagues. Do they seem isolated or left out? There are lots of small actions we can take to make our workplaces as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This year’s theme is all about taking action and making impact – this could be by going the extra mile to correctly pronounce a fellow staff member’s name, or respecting dietary requirements regardless of your personal views, or even enlarging the font size before your colleague with a visual impairment has to ask. It can be awkward to have to ask for adjustments that everyone can see you really need – inclusion is about not making anyone feel othered by their differences.
This is the difference between Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion."