Volume 35 Number 3 | June 2021
Heather Herrington, DVM, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Developing Professionals Forum Secretary
A few years ago, I was at a conference that featured a presenter who talked about diversity and inclusion while we were having breakfast. After her talk, which was quite interesting, we went to our break-out rooms for the remainder of the day. A woman sat down at my table and confessed that she had skipped the morning speaker so she could sleep in. Plus, in her words, as far as diversity and inclusion goes, “What more is there to know? You just invite people, then include them!” Most everyone just laughed, but what she said bothered me, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Recently, I was talking with my husband, who has done work around diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. His current employer is based in the United Kingdom and has offices in the United States. He told me that the world of diversity and inclusion is evolving to include additional concepts. In the United States, people seem to be focusing on equity, mainly in respect to pay disparities, but also in overall making places more fair and just.1 Importantly, it’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” in that order. In the United Kingdom, the focus is more on “belonging.”
This discussion with my husband made me realize why that woman’s comment had rubbed me the wrong way. Just inviting a diverse group of people to the table is not enough. We need to do better than that.
“[Diversity and inclusion] may capture your head, but belonging captures your heart.”
While I do not question equity being important, I feel like belonging is even more crucial. Pat Wadors, the person who originally came up with the concept of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) said, “D & I may capture your head, but belonging captures your heart.”2 Obviously, fostering a sense of belonging requires a shift in the entire culture of a workplace. It’s definitely worthwhile, though. In a study performed involving women in engineering, a typically male-dominated field, it was shown that increasing women’s sense of belonging significantly reduced their stress levels, which improved their physical health, emotional well-being, and job performance.3
Thankfully, there is a bit of a blueprint when it comes to fostering a sense of belonging.4
- When a new employee joins the team, make introductions and, ideally, personalize them. Don’t just say, “This is Liz, the new person.” Rather, try, “This is Liz, who is joining our microbiology team. Liz, this is Mike, and he’s an expert on the blood bench.”
- Ask questions to get to know your coworkers and genuinely listen to their responses.
- Ask for input during meetings, and don’t speak over people or interrupt.
- Delegate tasks to foster professional growth.
- Pay attention to your colleagues. Don’t try to subtly check your text messages during a conversation—trust me, you aren’t being sly.
- Share stories. Be open when it comes to both your failures and successes. It will go a long way toward building a sense of community.
In today’s world, we need to aim higher than diversity and inclusion. Think about the last time you felt like you genuinely did not belong. Is that a feeling you want to have every single day in your lab? Of course not! What about the feeling you get when you are being treated unfairly? Again, this isn’t a situation you want to encounter every day at work. As professionals, we can absolutely do better.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; A Professional Development Offering of the eXtension Foundation Impact Collaborative. https://dei.extension.org/
- Sands A. Diversity and inclusion aren’t what matter. Belonging is what counts. https://anitasands.medium.com/diversity-and-inclusion-arent-what-matter-belonging-is-what-counts-4a75bf6565b5
- Walton GM et al. (2015). Two Brief Interventions to Mitigate a “Chilly Climate” Transform Women’s Experience, Relationships, and Achievement in Engineering. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2), 468-485. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037461
- Wators P. Diversity Efforts Fall Short Unless Employees Feel That They Belong. https://hbr.org/2016/08/diversity-efforts-fall-short-unless-employees-feel-that-they-belong
Heather Herrington is a Medical Technologist in the Microbiology Department at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo credit: Amer Mughawish on Unsplash