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Triumph in the face of diversity

The long-running, award-winning US drama Mad Men came to an end in May this year after seven years of shining a light on the glamourous world of advertising in New York and California during the 1960s.

But for all the glitz and glamour, the show also highlighted the sometimes painfully slow progression of workplace diversity practices during the period. Thankfully, opinions and ideas about diversity in the workplace have moved on immeasurably within two generations since.

However, there is still a lot of work that can and should be done in making our workplaces more all-encompassing, something that Felicity Barber from The Muse has spent most of her career putting into practice. Below, she passes on some of her wisdom and advice on championing workplace diversity.

Understand what ?diversity? is –
?A common mistake people make is to think diversity only pertains to race and gender. It?s completely understandable. Whether we?re male or female, black or white, gender and race are social characteristics we notice about each other almost immediately. Just remember, diversity also includes characteristics you may not be able to see, like disability, age, sexuality and religious belief.”

Know your statistics – ?If you plan on talking about diversity in your workplace (and I hope you do), it?s helpful to have statistics to back up your argument for inclusivity. It?s also worth knowing your own company?s numbers for comparison?s sake. Just bear in mind that even when a company has a staff that?s 50% male and 50% female, that doesn?t mean it?s particularly diverse. A deeper look at the figures may show, for instance, that most the women are in administrative roles and most the men are in positions of leadership.?

Share your story – “Stats are vital, but it?s stories that really change hearts and minds. So, share your stories with colleagues about inclusiveness in the workplace ? good and bad ? and ask others about their experiences too. Did you have a manager who supported you with a gradual return to work following maternity leave? How about a mentor who championed your rise to board level? Have you had a negative experience with harmful language, inappropriate humour, or noticing a lack of advancement for certain groups of people?

Sharing these stories is critical, because they help create a narrative about what a business culture that supports diversity will (and won?t) look like.”

Be a mentor – “Yes, the word mentor is tossed around all the time. You don?t have to mentor someone who matches your race, gender, or sexuality. In my experience, partnering with someone who doesn?t share identical social characteristics may increase your understanding about what it?s like to come from a different background and work in your field. Yes, you may learn as much from your mentee as he or she learns from you.”

Read Felicity?s article in full at