I know I gushed, over the course of several articles, about all the fabulous, intelligent, finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-future, women I interacted with at the Blockchain conference earlier this year, but can we revisit just once more? Because this time of year is introspective and nostalgic. The falling leaves cause us to think about the coming months, and naturally, we predict what those months will hold for us. I am not immune, and my predictions generally fall into the realm of business, technology, design, or all three. Which is why I am declaring 2019 the year of intentional inclusion.

There's No Longer Space for Bias Here

Danielle Barnes, the CEO of Women Talk Design took notice of the lack of inclusion when it comes to diverse speakers on the speaking circuit, and I want to share with you some of the profound points we discussed on intentional inclusion, diversity, what we can do, and why it's important. Women Talk Design has been getting a makeover since 2017. What first began as a directory for women speakers in design and tech is now branching out into partnerships to get that directory working for the women  listed on it. If women make up half the population, but only a small percentage of the paid keynote speakers, eventually we all have to admit, that statistically, this can no longer be random. Instead, we should call it bias. And the solution to bias is intentional inclusion.

Step One: Plan Ahead

Barnes believes some of this continued bias occurs because organizers have a lot on their plates, run low on time, and rely on the same network to pull speakers and keynotes from. This routine leaves little space for new diverse stars to be born into the speaking circuit, perpetuating the cycle of bias.

Step Two: Grow Your Network

Organizers have two options when it comes to expanding into more diversity  and inclusion. The first option is to have an offsite team who can help ease blind spots you may have when it comes to diversity. You can rely on this  team to assist you in creating a lineup that represents all of your conference attendees, not just half of them. The second option is to spend time growing your network, so when it comes time to hire a speaker or keynote, you can pull from a wide range of options, not the same three rotating around the scene with organizers you know and rely on for referrals.

Step Three: Practice Awareness

Intentional inclusion requires you to be intentional, and to be aware about your role in playing gatekeeper to an entire profession that is currently suffering a heavy bias. That means not just hiring the guy your buddy, who is also a gatekeeper, told you about, or not just hiring the person you relate to most, or who looks the most like you. Diversity is only daunting to those who lack awareness. Inclusion benefits everyone, in perspective, in knowledge, in experiences, in potential, and so much more.

Step Four: Know Your Resources

Just like the Women Talk Design directory and offerings, it's important for you to know what resources are available out there to help you be the most effective in your role while making progress.

Step Five: Refer, Refer, Refer

As you design a more inclusive route, be sure to share those experiences, refer those diverse speakers, and talk about your progress. These conversations help ease the burden of bias, allowing us to be honest and thoughtful about where we are going, and the work we still have left to do. 2019 is the year of intentional inclusion because we are capable of this, and no less.

Published on: Dec 11, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.