I was an intern at Spoon and this is what I taught them about diversity

Published Nov. 10, 2022, 3:22 p.m. by Palien Cole Cham

Palien Cole Cham
Diversity and inclusion is about more than just representing different ethnicities in your marketing or on your webpage. Consumers are extremely sensitive to diversity-washing so any claims of diversity and inclusion in practice needs to be backed up with evidence. Here Palien Cole Cham, intern at Spoon, gives you important insights that he brought to his internship.

I was introduced to Spoon by a true diversity & inclusion (D&I) - agent, Malin Sund. She is an outright champion for inclusion and change-making. We had our first meeting on Teams while I was in Lisbon and five minutes into the meeting I was already sold. Her ambitions and motivations on getting Spoon to become a champion for inclusion and diversity made me want to be a part of that journey.

Fast forward a couple months and it was time for me to embark on a new journey, adjusting to this new world of communication agencies. I wasn’t surprised that I was to be one of few people of colour here. But Spoon isn’t the only one at fault for this, the entire industry is notoriously homogeneous and that’s the reason why I am writing this post. So here are my top insights for those wanting to work better with D&I:

Diversity and inclusion - what you need to know

Diversity does not mean inclusion

There are actually 7 different types of diversity (racial, sexual orientation, religious, disability status, age diversity, sex and gender and cultural.) But this does not include Inclusion. Inclusion is the respect for and appreciation of these differences – the conscious act of valuing and welcoming diversity.

Be an empath

Mistakes happen, we misspeak and mispronounce. But that is not a big issue, initially. How we choose to correct ourselves is what really matters. Companies, organisations and the individuals in them ought to be humble to the fact that we may make these mistakes and may need to be corrected.

Always a student

The inclusion landscape is in constant change, what might have been the norm a couple of years ago may be completely out of date today. Make sure to always keep up to date. Read new articles/blog posts or listen to podcasts on the topic.

“Culture add” over “culture fit”

HR is getting the brunt of the stick here but oftentimes we hear that recruiters are looking for talent that is the right “culture fit”. This tends to mean that the organisation leans on employees to adapt or conform to its norms. Having “culture add” as a philosophy entails acceptance and embracing employees of different backgrounds and demographics.

Battling unconscious bias

We are all pretty aware of the fact that we all have biases, and that these biases steer our ways of thinking and unconscious actions. But we can learn how to be aware of them and implement strategies or actions to combat them.

Start by raising awareness among your employees and add different perspectives to your roster of recruiters. By doing this you’re ensuring that any blindspot an individual has is covered by another in the team.

Give your hiring practises a facelift

More and more companies are moving towards adding personality tests as part of their recruiting processes, this is a good thing. Valid and reliable personality assessments have proven to be a useful tool for measuring candidates' motivations, traits and skills. This is where your organisation may want to consider adopting a “culture add” philosophy.

People first, everything else later

Embracing diversity and inclusion cannot work in isolation and requires holistic change. This means that your leadership needs to be on board and to align the company's Why with D&I. The culture must see the people as its primary resource.

Use an inclusive language

It is also imperative that inclusive language is used throughout your organisational and an awareness embedded in your culture. Avoid, for example, the terms “coloured people” or “disbled people” instead use ‘people of colour’ and ‘people with disabilities’. And when building a diverse workforce and inclusive culture in your company, make sure to anchor your initiatives with those who are meant to reap the benefits.Their early input may be the difference between a successful initiative and an unsuccessful one.

Diversity is not the same thing as sustainability

From my experience it’s common that companies lump these two together. This may be well intentioned but it signals diversity washing and potential green washing as well. You are just using the same method to solve different issues. If you run after two hares you will catch neither.

Palien Cole Cham, intern at Spoon

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