Structural discrimination is still a substantial issue in the world we live in today. It is deeply rooted into our culture; so much so that issues often go unnoticed. The prevailing power structures and norms are not questioned or perhaps not even seen from our own privileged positions. Media and communication around us has a significant impact on society and the images we construct. With this comes responsibility, which is why it is crucial to pause and think about the kind of future and reality we want to create with our communication; how can we do our part in making society a more fair place?
Advancing diversity and inclusion through communication
In general, diversity refers to differences among people regarding for example age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or physical characteristics and limitations. Inclusivity refers to taking these differences into account, incorporating and respecting them. From a company culture perspective, supporting diversity shows appreciation towards people from different backgrounds and their versatile knowledge and opinions. Inclusivity refers to practices where individuals and groups from different backgrounds experience cultural and social acceptance – they are given equal opportunities and resources to succeed. Inclusion is a sense of belonging and being seen. When planning communication efforts, it is essential to reflect on the chosen representation in order to avoid content that fuels or sustains inequality.
Everything stems from values
For diversity and inclusivity to become sustainable, they should stem from company values and long term actions as well as consistency. Company culture and internal communication need to be in line with external marketing communication efforts. If diversity and inclusivity are communicated about only at a surface level, it insinuates an opportunistic approach: using these themes merely as a marketing strategy to gain commercial value. When striving towards inclusive communication, it is good to remember at least the following:
- Consistency. Advancing diversity and inclusivity should be an ongoing process, not something to take part in only when it profits a company. Lack of authenticity will inevitably also be reflected on to the brand image of a company.
- Comprehensiveness. Action should not only take place at the level of marketing communications, it should extend across a wide range of practices. It is important that diversity and inclusivity efforts also reach internal processes from recruitment to leadership.
- Let’s not take the easy way out. We should consider and represent a multitude of differences instead of focusing visual representation for example only on minorities who are most easily recognized. It is important to show underrepresented minorities in a way that emphasizes equality. Attention should be payed to how people and experiences are portrayed: which roles are we assigning and to whom?
- Avoiding categorization. When speaking of different groups of people it is important to acknowledge our unconscious biases so that we can do our best to avoid and dismantle negative stereotypes. It is good to remember that we are all individuals, the end goal is not to emphasize our differences, but to bring us closer to equality.
The advancement of diversity and inclusivity is good to start with deepening our understanding of the topics; acquiring a variety of valuable information is widely available. The role and support of leadership in companies is essential in order for ideas to lead to action. Increasing diversity and inclusion in work cultures and business is shown to improve creativity, wellbeing and overall results. Advancing equality is not only responsible, it is for the benefit of all.