The impact of Covid-19 on creativity and cultural expression has been tremendous with heritage sites closed, people unable to celebrate significant holidays the traditional way and limited opportunities to share their cultures with others. The 21st May 2021 is the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development and celebrates the diverse range of world cultures, promotes education on the experiences of others and how this cultural diversity enriches our economy and society.
I am dedicated to embracing cultural diversity which I have grounded my commitment in real, tangible actions. At the start of 2019, my publishing company, Panoma Press, pledged that 80% of its titles would be written by authors from traditionally underrepresented groups. In 2020, we achieved the 80% target for the second year in a row, demonstrating the business benefits diversity also brings, celebrating 15 years in business in November, publishing more books than forecast and reporting out best year on record with highest gross and net profits. This target also extends to my other endeavours including The Book Midwife®, which helps authors plan and write their books, and the “Above and Beyond Thoughtful Leadership Conference”.
To help other leaders celebrate cultural diversity and support those from all backgrounds in the workplace, I have shared my five top tips:
- Provide a platform for sharing experiences – Giving opportunities to those from diverse cultural backgrounds not only celebrates varying experiences, but also broadens the horizons of others in the workplace. For example, If you have a website, blog or newsletter, rotate the writing opportunities to showcase varying perspectives and give others the chance to have their story heard on a wider stage.
- Consult a wide array of individuals when managing change – Change can be a very upsetting experience and this can be further distressing if you do not consider the implications across different groups. Imposing new weekend or evening working hours or changing food provisions without considering religious, cultural or dietary requirements does not provide a supportive workplace for different cultures. This is an essential part of being a thoughtful leader.
- Don’t always turn to the same people – We all have unconscious biases that we work to override and a common one is confirmation bias, or only seeking out opinions that confirm what we already know. An important part of supporting other cultures is challenging our preconceived ideas so don’t always turn to the same people, particularly as it can be exhausting for those from different cultures to continually share their experiences and struggles. Similarly, do not avoid those who might challenge your plans and beliefs; welcome differing opinions.
- Celebrating together – If there are significant days, holidays and events coming up in the cultural calendar, encourage celebration of these between colleagues and leaders. This will forge strong relationships between colleagues, help others to feel more included and promote learning. Remember to also take time to celebrate work-related successes!
- Inclusive language and communication – Often we do not realise how the language we use is impacting other people. Some of the colloquialisms we use are not very inclusive and a lot of the language we use on a daily basis is negative. Leaders should be setting the tone, communicating thoughtfully and encouraging others to reframe and refresh their language. An important part of this is creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing when they are affected by the language of others.