There is a well-known quote by diversity and inclusion expert Verna Myers that says “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” And it is a statement that has resonated with me for many years in my ongoing individual and group work with leaders. I have long espoused the vital role leaders play in creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. But a few months ago, I had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with several professional colleagues on this very topic, and I realized, that as much as I like this metaphor, it is actually insufficient.
Real inclusion is more than “being asked to dance”
Being “asked to dance” assumes that the relationship is one-way. But real inclusion should be a two-way shared relationship in which all parties have both the ability and confidence to initiate an interaction. Real inclusion requires three additional features.
- That anyone can offer input into the music playlist knowing that it will be considered;
- That any party can ask another person to dance; and
- That there are no physical or other barriers that prevent someone from getting out on to the dance floor.
As I continued my conversation with my colleagues, we came to the decision that the word that would best describe inclusion plus these three aspects is “belonging”. And as leaders, we should be striving to create workplaces that encompass diversity and inclusion, but also in which all our employees feel like they belong.
So I have now revised the phrasing I use with my clients leaders to the following:
Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging, however is much more. To create belonging, leaders need to establish a climate in which everyone believes that they can provide input to the playlist, ask others to dance, and access the dance floor.
I’d love to know what you think about my expanded definition of diversity and inclusion. Please share your perspective by adding your comment below.