Building an inclusive brand is a team effort. And that effort works a lot more efficiently and effectively when it is embraced, championed, and modeled from the top down from leadership at a company. But unfortunately, that isn't always the environment people find themselves in.
I've talked to a number of people within companies who have a desire to build an inclusive team and culture, and deliver inclusive marketing, but struggle to do so because they don't feel they have the support, resources, or authority needed to make broad-based change.
The good news is, if you find yourself in this situation, your hands aren't tied. You can be a catalyst for change by focusing on impacting the people in your orbit. Here are four ways to do it.
1. Be a safe space
When I worked my corporate job, I often would have colleagues come into my office to vent or to tell me about something that happened at work that they couldn't comfortably express to others.
And now in my work as an entrepreneur, I often find myself holding space for people who are part of communities that are often underserved, marginalized, and mistreated.
Be the person that makes other people feel like they belong. Whether a colleague needs to come out, talk through the emotions they are feeling in response to events happening from a social justice standpoint, or even to share an uncomfortable situation they found themselves in at work, make sure others know that you are a trusted ally.
For your teammates and colleagues, knowing they have at least one person in their corner whom they can have psychological safety with can be just what they need to improve their work situation.
2. Call out micro-aggressions
Whether you realize it or not, we've all experienced, delivered, or witnessed at least one micro-aggression in the workplace over the course of our careers. Many people may not even be aware that they are committing a micro-aggression, and thus don't realize the negative impact they have on others. The cumulative effect of micro-aggressions not checked can lead to a toxic work environment.
You can change that by calling out micro-aggressions when you see or experience them. Sometimes doing that could be as simple as educating others on the impact of a statement or behavior. And other times, it could mean asking an offender to not say a particular word or phrase, or not to repeat a behavior.
Being intentional about rooting out micro-aggressions can go a long way toward transforming a culture.
3. Champion and mentor talent from marginalized and underrepresented communities
You don't need any permission or particular authority to mentor, sponsor, or advocate for talent. When you see high-quality talent within your company you feel you could add value to, particularly from a marginalized or underrepresented group, use your expertise, privilege, and network to support and advance their careers.
Your assistance in advancing the careers of others could increase the diversity of the leadership of your company.
4. Be a resource for cultural intelligence
I had a chat with one of my students a few weeks ago, who told me about an exchange she had with one of her contractors about religious holidays. She had a number of projects for the team member, who was feeling overwhelmed about juggling the workload during Ramadan. Because she has a global team, I advised her to create a calendar so she could see the holidays and time off each of her team members was taking, so she could plan projects accordingly.
Even though we have increasingly more global teams, there are often many things we don't understand about others from a cultural standpoint -- that at times impact the way we work, or how we work and engage with each other.
While you may not be able to impact policy at your company regarding holidays and time off, you can educate others on different cultural norms, customs, celebrations, and other nuances that help foster a greater degree of understanding and empathy.