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Creativity and Inclusion: Three Ways to Bring More Diversity into Your Life and Work

by Meguire Heston
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A Note to Readers: While we’ve tried to be incredibly thoughtful about the words chosen below, we don’t have the experience or perspective necessary to know for sure that we’re contributing to this important conversation in the right way. Our biggest concern is that we’ll do harm to the communities we actually want to align with and support. Our decision to publish was based on two things. First, we wholeheartedly believe in being vulnerable and brave, even when — especially when — we’re uncomfortable. Second, we believe discomfort leads to growth, and we know we need to grow. So, onward.

Do a simple Google search for “diversity training.” How many of those organic page results feature an actual training option? Only 1 in 12.

The other 11 page results? They’re thought leaders and “experts” talking generally about diversity training, much like I’m doing right now. So why am I still writing? Because it’s time for the conversation around diversity and inclusion to shift from thought leadership to actual leadership. It’s time for us to seek out and follow leaders from communities most harmed by a system that actively excludes them.

So why are we, an online learning company, taking a position on this? Because, to echo learnings from Reni Eddo-Lodge, ignorant, harmful actions and behaviors of the privileged community fuels hopelessness in marginalized communities. And hopelessness? It kills creativity. And we’re in the business of creativity.

CreativeLive champion’s every creator’s right to live their dreams, and we intend to be the champion of all creators, not just the ones that look and live like us. We invite you to join us as we try to figure out what that means and how each of us can take action toward more inclusion and diversity in our everyday lives.  

Diversity and Inclusion in Life and at Work

If we want to do better and enact real change, we first have to wrap our heads around what’s going on here. Let’s take race as one example. The decks are stacked against people of color (POC): white people so often fail at diversity and inclusivity because we were born with blinders on and we haven’t worked hard enough to take them off. Thanks to social, political, and economic systems that simultaneously harm POC and help white people, we’ve had unfettered privilege, power, and authority.

But our understanding deficit doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility to fix a problem we contribute to every day. As Brittany Packnett says, “The more you benefit from supremacy, the more responsibility you have to be dismantle it.”

This goes for corporate environments, too. Generally, corporate leadership utterly fails at including POC and women (about 72 percent is white and male). Catalyst reports that just 5 percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women, and worse, with Indra Nooyi recently stepping down as PepsiCo CEO, that figure includes zero women of color. Zero.

It would be so easy to point a finger to men in leadership and ask how much progress can be made, really, when diversity and inclusion efforts depend heavily on skills like empathy, vulnerability, listening, and activism — skills not widely associated with white male executives.

But focusing only on gender inequality in corporate leadership is problematic for two reasons. First, diversity and inclusion isn’t just a corporate initiative — it needs to be a life initiative. And second, the finger should point at white women, too. We know how it feels to be targeted and marginalized. We’re active champions of initiatives like executive leadership equality, equal pay, and sexual harassment prevention, but most of us are silent on diversity. We remove one piece from the social justice pie — the piece that affects us most — put it on a plate, and serve it up to the masses as if it was never part of the whole. As if we aren’t culpable for ignoring a much larger community of people who are targeted and marginalized in ways we will never experience.

We must begin using our privilege at all levels, as entrepreneurs, entry-level employees, executive leaders, or expert homemakers to insist on more diversity and inclusion in our communities. It’s our responsibility to be part of the change we want to see.

We Start With Personal Accountability

It’s time for another truth: Although we’ve made instructor diversity a priority lately, the majority of classes on CreativeLive are not taught by POC. And like most eLearning providers, we don’t have any classes that cover topics like diversity and inclusion — for work or for life.

We don’t have a tidy answer for how culture can be more inclusive, and we’re clearly not a shining example of how to do it right. Change comes when we’re willing to sit down around a table, examine this messy middle part of our process, expose it to others, and say collectively, “This cannot stand. We have to change.”

And we’re late to the scene. Very late. I’m just now starting to have these conversations at work and in life. Where have I been? Thankfully, I’m now employed by a company that’s supportive and willing to engage with me on the subject. I don’t fear losing my job over going to bat for more action on diversity and inclusion. That’s privilege.

Now Take Action

So where do we start? At CreativeLive, we talk a lot about the blurred lines between life and work, passion and acumen. If taking on diversity and inclusion feels too intangible, bring it closer in. There is so much we can do. Here are a few questions we can ask to help decide on actions we can take to bring more diversity and inclusion into our way of life:

Are your social feeds monochromatic and monotone?

Do our accounts only feature people who look and sound like we do? Change that today. The median American visits an average of three social media platforms several times a day. That’s a lot of collective looking. A quick audit of my preferred social platform (Instagram) shows that of the 526 accounts I follow, just 14 percent are managed by POC. I can do better, and I’m betting you can, too.

Following are just a few accounts to get us started, ranging from activists, educators, writers, business leaders, musicians, and more. Rule number one? LISTEN. Don’t comment. Listen, learn, sit in your discomfort, and pursue and pay for the additional resources so often gifted by these leaders.

Follow @rachel.cargle, @ijeomaoluo, @shaunking, @laylafsaad, @jstlbby, @mspackyetti, @glowmaven, @luvvie, @yrsadaleyward, @traceellisross, @queenteddy, @lizzobeeating, @nayyirah.waheed, and @ajabarber.

Are our bookshelves diversified?

A lot of people use books and stories as a means of making sense of the world. Who writes the words we read? Do they look and live just like us? Bring diversity and inclusion into your home by way of words.

Here are just a few books that tell the story of the profound role race plays in our society: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” by Reni Eddo-Lodge; “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” by Luvvie Ajayi; “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain,” by Phoebe Robinson; “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Are we having the hard conversations in life and at work?

Learning is at the very core of what CreativeLive does. We produce classes on leadership, emotional intelligence, and design thinking — all worthy pursuits in the realm of personal and professional development. Here’s the thing, though: We champion creativity and innovation across the board, but we haven’t yet applied it to critical topics like diversity and inclusion. We’re working through the question of how we — a company with few POC — begin to tackle these topics we know so little about.

Through hard, honest conversations, we’ve arrived at an answer that’s already aligned with what we do every day: Bring in the experts, pay them, and produce highly engaging learning content. This means we’ll seek out POC who are willing to guide us through this process. Since making that decision, we’ve committed to two approaches.

First, until we can better balance representation across our instructor community, our first priority is to produce new CreativeLive For Business classes taught by POC and women. Second, we’re working to activate partnerships with organizations that know how to address tough diversity, inclusion, and culture patterns head-on, while also pursuing the best and brightest voices to teach on topics like unconscious bias. It’s not enough, and it’s where we start.

Final Thoughts

I contribute to sustaining the very system, the very environment, that now requires the concept of diversity and inclusion. Do you? Let’s take responsibility for the change that needs to happen and do all we can to follow, support and align ourselves with experienced leaders who fight the system every day.

The ultimate goal? Move from thoughts to actions and deliver a tangible diversity and inclusion online learning option we can leverage in life and at work in 2019. One bright spot among all this? CreativeLive actually has the platform to help do it.

Meguire Heston leads Enterprise Marketing at CreativeLive. Follow her on Instagram @MeguireHeston and learn more about CreativeLive For Business at www.creativelive.com/enterprise.

Meguire Heston