As we look ahead to the new year and decade, how can we continue to make our schools and organizations more inclusive?
Over the past ten years, we’ve made some exciting strides with regard to diversity and inclusion. Think, for instance, of the rising demand for diversity and inclusion experts, the growing availability of gender-neutral bathrooms, and the way the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL, and #MeToo movements have shined their respective spotlights on income inequality, anti-Black racism, indigenous rights, and sexual assault.
Undergraduate student bodies are more racially diverse than ever. Employment for people with disabilities is on the rise. LGBTQ+ people can finally see authentic representations of themselves in movies and TV shows like Moonlight, Broad City, and Pose, among others. And in 2018, a record number of women were elected to Congress, 36 percent of whom were women of color.
As we look ahead to the new year and decade, how can we continue to make our schools and organizations more inclusive? Keep reading for a list of D&I trends we’d like to see take hold in 2020.
1. Recognize that having honest conversations about whiteness is integral to good allyship.
People who benefit from white privilege often don’t think to reflect on their own whiteness—even if they’re otherwise committed to dismantling white supremacy, racism, and other forms of injustice. The reason?
White privilege inherently makes whiteness hard to see, and confronting whiteness requires discomfort and vulnerability.
But in order to be a good ally to people of color, it’s critical that white people discuss the ways in which whiteness shapes their everyday experiences. How does a system of white supremacy both benefit and damage white people? How can white people utilize their whiteness to support people of color at home, work, school, and elsewhere?
2. ACCOUNT FOR people’s intersecting identities in society.
As Hanna Stephens writes, “An intersectional perspective deepens the understanding that there is diversity and nuance in the ways in which people hold power.” Before we draw conclusions on topics like healthcare, academic research, environmentalism, and inclusion, we must take into account the impact of people’s intersectional identities.
• Discussing women’s access to healthcare also means understanding that maternal deaths are often linked to racist notions that remain prevalent among healthcare providers.
• If researchers treat people with disabilities as a monolith, their research will likely overlook the impact of intersecting identities on experiences of disability.
• Climate change affects us all, but those with less socioeconomic power will face the harshest repercussions, some examples being the areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Maria.
• While gender and race are known to have an adverse effect on hiring and recruitment, the career-limiting effects of fatphobia are largely ignored.
As we enter 2020, let’s make it a trend to expand our understanding of diversity to those whose intersectional identities push them furthest to the margins. The first step? Listening not only to the experiences of which you’re aware, but also those that are less familiar or harder to hear.
3. Expand hiring and retention policies to take into account employees’ lived realities.
In her book Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez points out that some of the most well-intentioned workplace policies fail to account for the lived realities of women employees. For instance, some universities began offering parents an extra year per child to earn tenure, to account for the gender gap in the tenure-track system. However, what they didn’t realize is that new fathers generally spend the extra year doing more research, while new mothers spend it “throwing up, going to the toilet every five minutes, changing nappies or [being] plugged into their breast pump.”
In other instances, women of color are systematically prevented from workplace advancement as a result of unchecked unconscious bias, lack of support from higher-ups, and “protective hesitation” feedback, among other factors. How can inclusive hiring practices be restructured to solve these issues?
For one thing, commitment to diversity from leadership is a must. That includes insisting on diversity in the C-suite and ensuring that HR has the skills they need to foster diversity and inclusion. It’s also important to offer family leave policies that account for gendered differences in daily life. Not only do the aforementioned university policies penalize women, but many men shy away from taking parental leave without explicit support from leadership. Similarly, the expectation to get promoted within a couple of years may create tension among new parents and other caregivers.
Conducting diversity climate assessments can help HR avoid unintentionally harmful policies, while also helping leadership understand actual employee experiences and areas for growth in 2020.
4. Develop artificial intelligence (AI) with unconscious bias in mind.
AI has progressed leaps and bounds from the 2010 advent of Google’s personalized search results and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect. As of 2020, AI can diagnose cancer, prepare us for natural disasters, and promote sustainability efforts, among other functions.
But AI can also reproduce racist, sexist, transphobic, and other exclusionary attitudes.
As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) aptly said, “Algorithms are still made by human beings, and those algorithms are still pegged to basic human assumptions…if you don’t fix the bias, then [you’re] just automating the bias.” In 2020 and beyond, we hope to see AI scientists make a special effort to identify and reduce unconscious bias in technology. That way, AI can aid us in building a more inclusive world, instead of merely replicating human biases.
5. Instead of universally enabling call-out culture, let’s develop a call-in culture.
Conversations about social justice and diversity can often become inflammatory as they circulate on social media. It’s become a common trend for people to resort to publicly calling others out for microaggressive or oppressive behavior, either in-person or online. Such a reaction may make sense when drawing attention to a celebrity’s problematic behavior or when someone has been unresponsive and unaccountable.
But in general, call-out culture often leaves people feeling defensive, misunderstood, shamed, and blamed—particularly when the person being called out caused offense without knowing any better. Before calling someone out, consider your intentions behind doing so. Is your goal to shame or punish the person, or are you invested in their ability to change their behavior?
If the answer is the latter, consider whether you can have a private, one-on-one conversation instead. The process of calling in for a stronger, more inclusive community in 2020 means acknowledging that we all make mistakes and believing that we can do better.
Much of the progress made in the 2010s planted roots for progress. As we usher in 2020 and a new decade, taking hold of the trends above will help grow diversity and inclusion in all areas of society .