out exacting some mental and emotional
cost. Walking into a room where you
technically “belong,” but are socially excluded, is an experience that members of
under-represented groups have learned
to navigate. Here’s a thought: if an individual has to learn how to traverse a culture that is open on the surface but closed
from within, they will usually choose to
leave. What will it take for them to stay?
Knowing who we are, what we are afraid
of, what makes us uncomfortable, and
why these things exist is important to
creating an inclusive environment. Insti-
tutions do not think for themselves. We —
the truth that belongs to others without
disconnecting because of fear, anger, and
disagreement. These are the kinds of con-
versations that make people want to run
the other way. But, over and over again
across industries, I have seen and been a
part of transformative conversations that
cross massive cultural boundaries.
This is what the profession is miss-
ing. We pretend to be open to change, so
we say yes to diversity. The numbers and
experience of under-represented groups
do not lie. The profession as a whole is
struggling when it comes to inclusive-
ness. Why? Because inclusiveness is
connected to real change and letting go
of power, prestige, and sometimes posi-
tional authority. We don’t want to speak
about this openly. Are we ready to dis-
cuss the unspoken joy, confidence, and
protection that comes with being a part
of the dominant group? Are we ready to
discuss the fear and resistance that ac-
companies the onset of true equity?
Who we are, what we be-
lieve, and what we value shows
up with us in whatever position
we hold within the profession.
The more positional authority
we have, the greater our ability to influence the culture of
the profession. The individual
response to bias, exclusion, and
disparities matters. We can use
whatever our sphere of influence is to promote inclusivity.
Minding the Gap
As a profession, we haven’t
learned how to safely and
openly discuss our personal
connection and investment to
maintaining the status quo.
Even individuals who are openly committed to social and racial justice find it difficult to have these
open conversations. Yet how can we ever
get to a place of true equity if we do not
discuss the truth behind maintaining
systems of inequity? Some individual,
group, institution, or country always
benefits and resists the type of transformative reformation required for equitable distribution. When we connect this
to a natural human fear of difference, it
makes sense that simply diversifying
the profession is not enough.
Approaching the work from the “In-
side-Out” means we can examine the role
we play as individuals, within groups and
inside institutions in keeping barriers to
inclusion in place. Having this conversa-
tion fills the gap. Working from “Inside-
Out” also facilitates our participation in
the deconstructing of organizational sys-
tems and processes meant to maintain
the status quo.
How do we move towards becoming a
more inclusive profession? We can start
by examining our own institutions from
the “Inside-Out.” Collectively, these
institutions work together to create a
system which can facilitate or prohibit
becoming more inclusive.
1. Organizations should start at the top.
Have very real discussions about why
inclusion is important and perceived
barriers from the aerial vantage point.
2. Be intentional about discussing
the fears associated with becoming
more inclusive. The fears exist. We
have learned to bury them under
coded language associated with professionalism.
3. Unpack the discussion by using a slow
yet deliberative method focused on
emotional and positional safety. Positional authority and investment from
the top down matters.
4. Examine how to use the existing demographics of the company as a starting place for inclusivity.
5. Develop an intentional plan for inclu-
siveness that includes addressing and
you and I — bring our opinions, proclivi-
ties, biases, and desires with us wherever
we are. When I make a decision, I know
that I have to actively think about the
choice I am making. I have learned to ex-
amine myself from the “Inside-Out.” 1
“Inside-Out” is a philosophy of change
meant to promote personal growth in
connection with organizational development. Creating a more inclusive environment requires the participation of
individuals at all levels of an organization. When I refer to “inside,” I am first
discussing the internalized prompts that
exist for all of us. I know that my unconscious bias, my learned behaviors, and
my protective defenses work together
to protect me. My “inside” work is about
waking myself up and allowing others to
wake me up to opportunities to face my
fear of what, or whom, I see as different
The “Inside-Out” approach begins
with authenticity. Authenticity requires
courage and cannot be an investment in
protecting the reputation, standing, or
the need to be right. Authenticity does not
mean sharing the totality of my existence
in ways that are both unsafe and unwise.
It does require an ownership of my truth
and the willingness and ability to sit with