Where do you start when you want to create an inclusive company culture?

By Samantha van Londen

There is not one starting point, but if you ask me to mention a few, I would say for The xGen it starts with recruitment: the language you use in your vacancy. However, before you even enter the business world it starts at school, where the new generation is.  

The generations who are entering the business world, are the future! That is the generation that will be our leaders in a few years, they need to set the tone, the structure and decide the way we work together. They learn this in the business world by the lessons work gives you and the mentors who are already in the company. The better we can teach them about diversity even before they start working, the better they can implement it later on. 

Recently we were asked to be the closing keynote for a minor of Hotelschool The Hague.  The students followed a minor around diversity and inclusion, The Future of Work. The  and they needed tools on how they can make a difference when they start working.  Knowing that they will enter a maledominated industry, the hospitality industry, especially at management level. There is a lot of theory out there, which you need as a foundation, but how do you actually use that? 

During the presentation we covered 3 important pillars: body language, masculine and feminine qualities and authenticity. 

55% of the language we use is body language

We are so focused on the words we use, but 55% of the information we bring across is through body language. By the way you are sitting, legs crossed or not, shoulders off, or looking up, you are telling the other person so much more than you can tell in words. Be aware of how you use your body, and what you are telling the other person. 

It’s not about diversity in gender, it’s about diversity of thoughts & qualities.

We love to talk about this. A lot of times diversity will be interpreted as 50/50 man vs woman. But if you ask us, it’s not about diversity in gender, it’s about diversity of thoughts & qualities. The beauty is, that these qualities are in everyone, regardless of gender. Everyone has masculine and feminine qualities.

While we took the time to dive in the qualities we asked the students to write down which ones they recognized within themselves. Later in the conversation, we asked what they experienced and the most beautiful questions came up.

“I see I also have a lot of masculine qualities as a female, how do I say this to my manager?” 

You don’t have to talk about it, be aware of what you have as a quality and start to use them in different situations. A masculine quality is structure, so if you notice the situation needs that, use it! Don’t be held back because you think a man should do it, 

“I see I have a lot of feminine qualities as a man, but I know the business world will see me as weak. Do I hide my femine qualities at work?”

Unfortunately, we live in a masculine business world, but please don’t see your feminine qualities as weak. None of the qualities are weak, it’s what makes you you. Question is: do you have the courage to use them? Do you see an employee is not performing, but you sense it’s not about work but something else is going on. Take the time and use your empathy. Taking time and empowering your team doesn’t make you weak. On the contrary, it makes you a leader, showing we are all human. 

Inclusion is about having the space to be you and give the space

Inclusion is about having the space to be you and give the space to others to do the same, respect each other and see what difference brings you. The only way to do this, is to truly be you, respect yourself, have patience and reflect on what is going wrong. By doing that, you learn more about the other person, and even more about yourself. 

As we closed the session, we gave the students one last message: lead the change, never avoid the conversation. Is there a situation where you feel excluded or you see someone get excluded? Start the conversation. Don’t point out what is all going wrong, stay true to yourself, what does it to you? What do you feel and what needs to be done to let you feel included again? Every single time you have the conversation, you are working on inclusion! And taking leadership over your career.

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