Inclusion in the Workplace

Inclusion in the Workplace Emily Hickey, Program Coordinator with Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence at Vanderbilt University, explores the practice of inclusion and diversity in the workplace and methods of implementation. "Diversity is inviting people to the party whereas inclusion is asking them to dance, as they are able."

Begin Transcription

Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I am here today with Emily Hickey who is the Program Coordinator with Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence with Vanderbilt University. Emily earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Toledo and has also completed the Diversity Certificate Program. Her specific areas of interest include White Privilege, Feminine Invisibility, and Conflict Management. Today, we are looking at implementing inclusion in the workplace. Why do we need an inclusive workplace and can you tell me about diversity and inclusion? Emily Hickey: I think an inclusive workplace is most important because a lot of the narrative surrounding these conversations have the word diversity directly connected to them. One of the things that we would like to do in our office is help people understand the difference between diversity and inclusion. The way that we like to explain it is that diversity is inviting people to the party, whereas inclusion is asking them to dance as they are able. Often, we are hiring people of color, we are hiring women, we are hiring people from international backgrounds, and we are trying to check all of these boxes. But what is the true experience that these folks are having once they arrive at the institution? So that is why an inclusive workplace is most important making sure that we are celebrating everyone's identities once they get here, however they get here, and whoever they are. Rosemary Cope: With that in mind, the idea of inclusivity and diversity, how can Vanderbilt faculty and staff help to facilitate inclusivity in their own areas? Emily Hickey: I would say focusing on hiring practice, is not just to hire folks based on their demographics. It is a big way that we can create a more inclusive workplace, because for someone of color to be hired into this institution and then be the only person of color in their entire workspace, I think it is difficult for that person to not separate whether or not their credentials are what got them to this position or the color of their skin. So, with hiring practices for them to be truly and authentically inclusive, how faculty and staff can be able to facilitate these sorts of things are through expanding our communication channels, and where we are promoting these jobs. You will notice that often times these jobs are promoted within our small spheres of influence. How are we reaching the greater spheres of influence? How are we going through to non-profit organizations in the community? How are we reaching out to international applicants? How are we expanding our reach to make sure that we are being as inclusive as possible and and are we getting the most credible people in? Staff meetings would be another way where we can facilitate more inclusion, very rarely do things veer off of the business to-do list. People want staff meetings to be very productive, often task oriented, but we do not allow a lot of time to talk about current events, and maybe how our staff are feeling about what is going on. Not saying that this has to be a feeling circle, but just even allowing for there to be 10 or 15 minutes throughout each staff meeting that folks can count on to be able to process what may be going on in the world today, in the news, internally, and externally. We do not give ourselves a lot of time. We are just very business oriented and expecting folks to just kind of participate as usual even if they are personally affected by something going on. So, I think that is another way where we can create a more inclusive workspace. Rosemary Cope: What about our physical spaces? Is there anything that we could do to make those more inclusive? Emily Hickey: Certainly, You will notice that there are certain marketing photos that are staged with the three students of color put on the brochure at the front, and I am not saying that their intentions are ill, but I think that there is a lot more we could be doing to genuinely and authentically create inclusive spaces. One friend sense would be the ecology of our physical spaces. How many of our spaces are accessible for folks who utilize a wheelchair, even office spaces? I know there are a lot of people that work in what might feel like a closet, having very, very small workspace as well. How are they supposed to meet with someone who has accessibility needs? Is there a conference room that is always available for staff meeting to make accommodations for all?? Digital marketing for putting together YouTube videos or for instance this podcast, is there going to be a transcription below it so that someone who is not necessarily able to hear what you and I are talking about they can still read and still gain access to that information? Other things would be including your pronouns on the name tag that you have from Vanderbilt. I know the dean of students, we just recently were able to put a forth line on to a majority of our staff, and that is a choice that we allow them to make on their own. It is not a mandate because that is another big part of creating an inclusive workspace is allowing folks to come to it as they are able. Once we make things mandatory, the intent can sometimes be questionable, and it is the intent that creates the inclusion. Rosemary Cope: So, say I am a manager, or a department head, or I am somebody who is supervising other workers and we are very interested in learning more about inclusion and diversity. Can you tell us what your department does and what kind of trainings you might offer to us? Emily Hickey: In the Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence office, we not only advise multicultural student organizations, we have an undergraduate Diversity Certificate Program, but we have also released a three-part signature training series for faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. It is very intentional that we invite all folks there at the same time because I think that a lot of the conversations we have surrounding diversity and inclusion are happening in our siloed spaces. Rosemary Cope: What is a siloed space? Emily Hickey: So, just with faculty, just with staff, just with students… Rosemary Cope: Okay where we compartmentalize. Emily Hickey: Yeah, who share potentially similar experiences and understand the language of each other and their workspace, but I think a different sort of dynamic happens when we invite everyone to one table. I also do a seating chart. I am intentionally making sure that folks are meeting new people, and I am potentially being able to share stories with some who may have perspectives changed from that. The three part training series is centered around cultural competence. Rosemary Cope: And what is cultural competence? Emily Hickey: The way we present cultural competence is just having a foundational level of understanding of how to connect across difference. So, the foundational level is most important to us because I think a barrier to people even thinking about an inclusive workspace is thinking that they have to overhaul everything. These are like foundational blocks that we build on as we move through in our perspective changes, and that is how things are influenced and changed. So, our first training is very centered around self-awareness, because if we do not understand our own biases and privileges that we hold in gaps and knowledge, we may not be participating in these conversations in a way that is effective. The second training is very oriented around action, because we need to know what to do once we have this understanding of self, and the third training, which is our most popular, is facilitating difficult conversations and recovering from mistakes. So, we actually model how to go from start to finish and engaging in these conversations. Rosemary Cope: If somebody wants to be in touch with this department, where could they find this information? Emily Hickey: All of the information for our trainings including dates, times, locations, RSVP forms, and a brief description of all three on our website at Rosemary Cope: Emily, thank you so much for your time today. Rosemary Cope: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the "Add New Comment" link at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or suggestion, please email it to us at or you can use the "Contact Us" link on our website at Thanks for listening. -- end of recording --