A Point of View: Send Me the Cliff Notes

There is a point in Diversity and Inclusion work at which we ask ourselves, is this worth it? This work can feel like studying for a test that you have taken over and over, but never passed. It’s tiring to continue having the same discussions with coworkers, and it would be nice to be in a comfortable space for a while that does not require much challenge. Especially in today’s world, is it worth it to argue with individuals who now feel emboldened to challenge the philosophies of equity and diversity in support of exclusion and separation? Isn’t it just easier to decide the needs of your organization and the integrity of the program you worked so hard to build – without having to consult with everyone? You already did the hard, uncomfortable work. You moved your organization’s diversity beyond the “food and fun” and dove deep into challenging conversations, exposing bias, and acknowledging privilege.  You know exactly what your organization needs. You did the work, but you still haven’t passed the test.

Sometimes, it would just be easier to send over the Cliff notes. Make it short; make it simple; make it easy. After all, there’s other work to do (like discrimination investigations, updated policies and strategic plans, training plans to prepare, and employee groups to coordinate, etc.). And despite all this work, you have to keep continual D&I momentum for your organization. You have to keep the intent of equity and inclusion at the forefront to challenge those who are emboldened to challenge the philosophies of the work. This challenge can be very uncomfortable, and it would be nice to just be able to create a short-cut, full of light and simple language and designed to make people feel comfortable so as to not face these challenges. And while there are small opportunities to tone down rhetoric and dispel myths regarding this work, if you are committed to doing D&I work in a way that truly reaches the heart of an organization without compromising your values, you have to constantly challenge yourself and others. You have to ask yourself: who are you comfortably working for? Are you working for everyone? Has it been too long since you have been uncomfortable?

Diversity work is constantly changing. We have to continue to adapt and challenge our own perceptions and beliefs in order to stay relevant to the needs of today. We have to continue to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In our organizations, we must continually challenge comfort to truly continue to grow and develop as an inclusive entity. Unfortunately, there are no Cliff notes and there are no short-cuts. The legal field provides short-cuts for individuals who would not otherwise practice the fundamentals of equal opportunity and affirmative action, but short-cuts do not exist in the sphere of inclusion and equity. Short-cuts do not make us uncomfortable, and they do not help us grow.

So, acknowledge the frustration of the pace and pushback, and move forward. It can be hard to keep learning, constantly challenging ourselves and others, and constantly moving out of our comfort zones.  Unfortunately, being uncomfortable, awkward, upset, sometimes even annoyed are the best ways for the adult mind to truly learn and retain new ideas and philosophies in our everyday lives. So, in the context of D&I programming, things may get uncomfortable. Yes, that did just happen; yes, they did just say that; yes, we are still talking about this.

This is the beauty of our work. It is not boring, and it is constantly changing. It is, in essence, a test that you are constantly studying for and never quite passing, but the process of studying and challenging and learning makes you better. So, no, there are no Cliff notes.

About Femina Ajayi-Hackworth

Femina Ajayi-Hackworth has been in the Diversity and Inclusion field for the past 10 years. Her passion is working beyond increasing the diversity of organization staff to reflect the state workforce demographics, but rather to enhance Diversity and Inclusion work so that diversity is no longer viewed as a separate and distinct entity, but a cohesive and necessary factor of today’s work. Femina carries a dual Masters in African American and African Diaspora Studies, and a Masters of Public Affairs from Indiana University.

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