Global inclusion training

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Topics that are covered:

  • Global leadership
  • Cultural awareness
  • Global strategies
  • Global Staff Networks
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Welcome to the second blog in our ‘My Cultural Identity’ series for Global Inclusion Week. In this series, we hear directly from individuals, people from within the Inclusive Employers team, or from our member organisations, about their cultural identity.

We have curated this blog series to create opportunities to learn about cultures you may not know about, with a lens of intersectionality. We want to share how a person’s upbringing, history, and traditions are unique; and how our personal experiences can influence our professional lives, too.

Our second blog comes from Ruth-Anne Eghan, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant.

Navigating the complexities of cultural identity and inclusion

In today’s world, we are morally bound to champion the message of inclusion and diversity. Yet, many still fear fully embracing their identity. I will be the first to admit that I only sometimes appreciated the opportunity to embrace my culture. However, I have learnt to be grateful for the strength it brings.

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is linked to Emotional Intelligence (EQ); you cannot have one without the other. Understanding and managing our own emotions and those of others is essential for navigating the complexities of cultural identity and fostering genuine inclusivity.

Cultural Resonance

Kwame Nkrumah’s, former President of Ghana, words resonate deeply: “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart.” Society often encourages conformity, pressuring individuals to fit into predefined standards. Authentic connection transcends surface-level similarities by delving into shared interests, values, and cultures, breaking down barriers.

Bob Marley’s call to “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery” brings home an important symbol. Mental slavery manifests as exclusion, conformity, and aligning with the majority, stifling our true selves. Emancipation leads to inclusion, liberation, acceptance, and self-awareness.

Joseph Lowery’s words are a timely reminder: “If you don’t know where you come from, it is difficult to determine where you are going.” Acknowledging the courage, generational wealth, and historical traumas that shape our identity empowers us.

My journey and the Global Inclusion Week theme

As a Black woman born and raised in the UK with Ghanaian roots and connections to America, navigating the intersections of my professional and personal life has required resilience. Under the Global Inclusion Week 2024 theme, “Cultural Intelligence: Inclusion Across Cultures”, I aim to highlight the nuances of my cultural identity and advocate for genuine inclusion. Let’s delve deeper into my journey.

My Cultural Journey: A Tapestry of Identity

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour.”— Dr. Maya Angelou.

Born and raised in Essex and London, my upbringing was steeped in the values of community, resilience, and faith; each thread guiding me through.

Growing up in the UK, I enjoyed the celebrations of my heritage, from the melodic cadences of Twi and Fante dialect and English to the aromatic delights of Jollof rice and plantain, lovingly prepared by my parents. Ghanaian Independence Day on the 6th of March, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were a testament to the richness of our cultural tapestry.

Although I cherished the warmth of family gatherings and the joy of shared traditions, navigating my identity in a predominantly white environment brought challenges. During my school days, I felt the contrast between being accepted within my cultural community on Sundays at Church and the alienation of the classroom throughout the week.

When asked, “Where are you from, Ruth? I proudly say, “Ghana”. Often, it is assumed “, Oh, you were born there?” and the answer is always, “I was born and lived in England my entire life; my grandparents came here”. Unfortunately, that does not take away the marginalisation that my family and I have experienced.

Being Black encompasses a collective group of experiences that transcend nationality. In celebrating my journey, I invite others to grasp the landscape of their identities, embrace the mosaic cultures that shape us, and champion a world where every identity is celebrated.

“Use your voice and actions to raise awareness about cultural issues and advocate for meaningful change within your organisation. Embrace inclusion across cultures.”

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A diverse group of office professionals sitting around in a circle discussing their global inclusion week plans

Identity in the Workplace: Navigating Cultural Authenticity and Advocacy

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Reflecting on my journey, I have realised the importance of authenticity and advocacy in the workplace. A pivotal moment for me was during a Black History Month (BHM) initiative. It served as a reminder of the biases and stereotypes that persist in our society.

Leading a quiz on the first job roles of famous Black individuals, I was shocked by the responses from some colleagues – “chicken shop worker,” “cleaner,” and “gang member.” These responses showed the prevalence of stereotypes and highlighted the need for greater awareness and education surrounding Cultural Intelligence.

It is crucial to acknowledge that exclusion in the workplace is not always overt; often, it comes from deeply ingrained biases. These conscious or unconscious biases can influence everyday interactions and decision-making processes, affecting systemic inequalities. Addressing these biases requires consistently challenging assumptions and promoting inclusivity at all levels of the organisation. You cannot be culturally aware without understanding the latter.

Transitioning to a new role allowed me to take proactive steps towards fostering inclusion, Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Intelligence. Organising a cultural day where colleagues shared dishes and snippets of their heritage and languages proved a powerful formula for dialogue and understanding. Ultimately, celebrating diversity is a strategic advantage. Research consistently shows that diverse teams are more innovative, resilient, and better equipped to navigate complex cross-cultural challenges (McKinsey, 2023).

My upbringing was full of Akan proverbs shared by my parents, which impart wisdom that still rings true. One such proverb, “All fingers are not the same,” highlights the importance of diversity, urging us to appreciate and respect everyone’s unique gifts.

My cultural background and religious beliefs intersect seamlessly daily, grounding me in love, acceptance, and hospitality principles. John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” It is a guiding light, reminding me to extend love and kindness to others regardless of our differences. Faith entails embracing diversity and culture and finding joy in the richness of the human experience rather than focusing on condemnation, especially when making decisions.

Intersectionality: Navigating the Complexities of Identity

“How different types of discrimination (unfair treatment because of a person’s sex, race, etc) are connected to and affect each other” – Cambridge Dictionary

“Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity” - Kimberle Williams Crenshaw.

Intersectionality is more than just a concept; it is a lived reality that shapes my day-to-day experiences as someone whose identity is influenced by five protected characteristics: faith, race, gender, age, and disability. These intersecting characteristics guide my interactions and beliefs, sometimes granting me advantages while at other times presenting challenges. In professional settings, the impact of intersectionality becomes evident. I have been in situations where I have had to go above and beyond to prove myself to some while simultaneously reassuring others solely by my presence. These dynamics portray the complexity of intersectional identities and the multifaceted nature of discrimination and privilege.

For instance, my community sees education as a beacon of opportunity. However, my journey through the education system was turbulent. As someone who experiences neurodivergence, I faced early challenges in schooling due to a lack of understanding and support at the time. Yet, I refused to let these obstacles define my life. Instead, I approached each challenge with determination and resilience, using my intersecting identities as sources of empowerment rather than limitation.

Understanding the nuances of intersectionality is essential. Cultural Intelligence recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusion. Intersectionality is vital to staff networks and employee resource groups; holding intersectional events can be a way to engage more people, as people will often align with more than one characteristic. To be an industry leader within inclusion and diversity, leadership must understand this concept to drive inclusion to the next level.

Advice for Navigating Your Cultural Identity

As someone who has navigated the complexities of cultural identity in a professional setting, I understand the challenges and opportunities it presents. My advice to individuals navigating their cultural identity is to embrace authenticity. Embracing who you are, including your cultural background and intersections, can be a source of strength and resilience. Being proud of your background and confidently sharing aspects of your culture with colleagues is essential.

Additionally, seek allies and trusted colleagues who can support and guide you. Building a network of individuals who understand and appreciate your cultural identity can be invaluable in navigating workplace dynamics.

Lastly, do not be afraid to advocate for yourself and others. Use your voice and actions to raise awareness about cultural issues and advocate for meaningful change within your organisation.

Join us to celebrate Global Inclusion Week

If you have been inspired by Ruth’s story and would like to continue to learn about cultural identities and how they influence the workplace, sign up to Global Inclusion Week and make sure you are following the My Cultural Identity Blog series.

During Global Inclusion Week, 10th-14th June, there are a number of free webinars and when you sign up you will have access to the toolkit, which includes guides on Cultural Intelligence and Understanding Culture.

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Global inclusion training

Bring your people together for Global Inclusion Week through virtual training experiences.

Topics that are covered:

  • Global leadership
  • Cultural awareness
  • Global strategies
  • Global Staff Networks
Discover more and get in touch

Read more Global Inclusion Week blogs