** Today’s post is provided by guest blogger Yvette, an Experienced Consultant in Protiviti’s Metro D.C. office **
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”- Mahatma Gandhi
As part of Protiviti’s ongoing commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, the Multicultural Employee Network Group (ENG) has a mission to promote a working environment in which employees of all cultures, races, and ethnicities feel accepted and valued.
The Metro D.C. chapter of the Multicultural ENG officially launched this past summer, with an aim to create a more collaborative environment, promote understanding, and introduce different ideas and perspectives. Since its establishment, the Metro D.C. Multicultural ENG has held events for current employees, as well as outreach to perspective consultants on campus through recruiting efforts. The ENG also sends out special edition newsletters on cultural holidays!
Earlier in October, the Metro D.C. Multicultural ENG hosted an afternoon “Teatime TEDTalks”. The idea of Teatime TEDTalk originated from my favorite activity that I hosted as a Resident Assistant (R.A.) back in college: Teatime Tuesdays. This regular event served as a wonderful opportunity for me to know my residents better, as well as facilitating conversations and relationship-building among the community members. Now, working as a full-time Consultant, I was beyond excited when I had the opportunity to host Teatime again – this time in a professional setting!
A diverse group of colleagues from Consultant to Managing Directors represented roughly 30 colleagues in attendance. The heartfelt conversation began with a discussion about tea cultures around the world, while we enjoyed variety of teas and snacks being served. After initial discussions, we then watched two TEDTalk videos. One was about stereotyping and the other about how our culture shapes our behaviors. Each was followed by an open discussion about these topics. Though we had a list of questions prepared to help fuel our talk, it quickly developed into an open dialogue where we shared stories that we often don’t discuss in the workplace, but that shape a great part of who we are. It was very admirable to experience the honesty and respect that was exuded during the event.
To me, one of the interesting points of discussion was how cultural biases may impact how we choose to style our hair. In informal discussions, many colleagues noted concerns about having someone of a different cultural background than their own style their hair, especially because hair plays a major role in how we want to be perceived and how we may actually be perceived. In this simple example of choosing a stylist, our discussion uncovered a rather common bias. This realization led us to determine that our preconceived biases can deprive us of great opportunities in multiple facets of our lives.
“Sometimes we experience discrimination within our own cultural groups, simply because we’ve decided to progress further in life outside of our social economic environments. That can also make you feel like you’re now an outsider, because you want better for your life. Those that get it will support you, and those that don’t will eventually be pushed aside.”
– Anthony A., Manager
“Individuals should be careful of crossing a line between curiosity and disrespect. For this reason, they should try to educate themselves about other cultures and not rely on stereotypes.”
– Christy P., Consultant
“Much of the content of the TEDTalk videos and subsequent discussions with our participant group resonated strongly to me as an immigrant from Scotland to the U.S.. In particular, the notion of being caught between two cultures and feeling like you don’t belong entirely to either one. When we see or hear differences between ourselves and other people, rarely with any malice from my personal experience, just natural curiosity, we ask questions. These are the easy icebreaker conversations that we all take advantage of, but it can easily cross a line, especially for second and third generation folks born and raised in the US facing the line of questioning: “Where are you from? No, where are you really / originally from? OK, so where’s your family from?” etc. A more appropriate way to communicate would be to focus on what you have in common rather than honing in on the differences.” – George M., Associate Director
Discussions regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace are important because in understanding the perspectives of others, we learn to humanize many issues in our workplace today. These topics may be uncomfortable, or sometimes controversial, but this is the exact reason we should continue to discuss them! Through sharing our stories and learning about our differences, we encourage civil dialogue, foster awareness and education, and bring people together for a stronger community.