Man standing in shallow water under blue sky with reflection of man visible

A lack of reflection could be limiting your actions

An integral outcome of DEI work is workplace belonging. Working in places and with people that enable you to bring your best self to work is a sign of workplace belonging. To experience the value add of diversity in the workplace, diverse bodies must feel a sense of belonging. As we discussed in The ROI of DEI, diversity equates to higher revenues and greater profits for companies. 

Like any meaningful change, fostering workplace belonging and trust to realize profit cannot happen overnight. We must be intentional about diversity and creating a culture of inclusivity so that we can fulfill belonging. This work begins with each and every one of us, especially those who hold positions of power. 

One of the key ingredients to fostering a sense of belonging at work is developing mutual trust. Mutual trust is an outcome of ongoing reflection upon oneself and the ways in which we  navigate spaces. 

Once we have moved through reflection, we can begin to make intentional changes in our actions. Employees want to see that you have made an effort to understand where they are coming from or what they may be experiencing. Through Kimberle Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, we can begin to understand the different aspects that make up each person’s identity by looking at how gender, religion, class, ability, sexuality etc. play out in everyday scenarios. 

While certain identities are privileged in society, others are not. Folks in the first category have not had the same experiences as those in the latter, limiting their exposure and associated understanding. This is where positionality comes into play. Someone who is Black, female, Muslim and visually impaired experiences patterns of disadvantage in ways that are very different to the experiences of someone who is white, male, agnostic and abled. 

Positionality is the concept that social and political context  creates your identity. Your positionality within a society can be analyzed by looking at your race, class, gender, sexuality and ability status. Positionality also describes how your identity influences your outlook on the world. 

Positionality exercises, whether done individually or as a group, offer the unique opportunity for in-depth understanding of one’s own identity. Understanding positionality helps us connect the dots to understand why we do what we do. Our unique positionality within our society yields insights around how we participate at work, how we engage with one another, and how we formulate certain opinions. 

Below are questions that encourage reflection on  the complexity of identity and how it is tied to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, power and privilege. We call this the Positionality Check. When we explore and accept the complexities in our own identity, we can learn how to connect with and value the different perspectives and journeys of others. Self reflection is integral to building an inclusive environment and permeates around our workspace. It is with this sentiment that we invite HR personnel and those in positions of leadership to undertake a personal positionality check. 

You can leverage the Positionality Check for individual or team reflection. Regardless, we encourage quiet time for deep reflection and a mode for sharing so that reflections can interact with one another and facilitate action formation. Making notes of reflections is a fantastic way to create continuity in learning and enable knowledge sharing. 

Positionality Check: 

  1. What are ways you identify yourself? 
  2. What communities do you feel a part of?
  3. Are the ways you identify yourself visible or not, and why?
  4. How do the ways you frame, understand, or name your identity(ies) change in different contexts? What influences this decision?
  5. Consider an experience in a particular work situation or group setting where you were conscious of your race, class, gender, migration status, sexual identity, or any other part of your identity(ies). What made you think about it, and how did it play itself out? How did the visibility (wanted or unwanted) make you feel?
  6. How do your identity(ies) impact the roles or positions you hold in group settings or organizational structures? Does this change in different groups or group formations? If so, why?
  7. Environments that promote notions of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ often perpetuate dominant structures and end up privileging certain experiences and lives. How can we imagine and foster alternative environments?

We leave you with this quote from Audre Lorde: 

Certainly there are very real differences between us of race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions, which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behaviour and expectation.

– Audre Lorde

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