Diversity and/or inclusion?

Did you know that we understand the English word “inclusion” to mean something different from the German word “Inklusion”? This is not a typo or translation error in the (German version of the) quote from Robert Franken.

“Diversity is the goal – inclusion is the way” – Robert Franken

I held a talk on diversity at the “Hello Diversity” conference on June 27th, 2019, in Berlin. Not an easy task, although for me it’s not a question of me going on the stage for diversity!

My goal is to share it with others, how we can achieve diversity – in companies, organizations, society. I will be standing there as severely handicapped, as a woman, as a founder, as a mother. My topic: “Building a career with and despite non-visible disabilities.” I have a lot to tell and yet, it is a huge challenge to meet my standards in this area. I wonder what the most important aspect of diversity and inclusion is for me, and if I can stand for it, seeing as I am a white, Western-influenced woman with a career.

The challenge remains.

What is my demand? Diversity is not something we decide today and will achieve tomorrow by having a workshop. About what exactly – unconcious bias? Communication? Where do we start and where do we stop when we talk about diversity? Diversity is much more than equality between women and men. We find diversity in so many ways: character traits, skin color, religion, nationality, culture, illnesses, disabilities … Even though my list ends here, it is not complete. And this diversity has to be established in all sorts of structures – in the system. Small thing, right. ūüėČ How do we manage to create sustainable and true change? We are looking for a way to start, a lever. The most effective one that suits us and to which we have access. My levers now are women. Because empowering women means not only strengthening the economy, but also strengthening society.

I am not just a woman who strives for equity in many areas. I stand for becoming aware that there is more out there than we can see from our supposedly privileged places. (The fact that there is no problem or that someone is not privileged, is something only the privileged can say – and exactly them should not.) Some time before that talk, on the way to CoWomen on the bike, I heard the podcast “How men change the economy can” from Plan W. Absolutely listen! Inclusion vs. the German “Inklusion”: I knew it somehow, but someone had to tell me so clearly. And that’s what I stand for here. After all, inclusion should – as for the word in German – no longer mean that we integrate people from all sorts of genders, (dis)abilities, backgrounds, … but that we actually live diversity.

Yes, we need spaces that are deliberately created for people with the same or similar challenges to exchange. Yet, in my opinion, what we especially need is that all spaces allow us all to unfold with all our diversity. It’s a matter of culture, too.

Be the change!

I cannot blame anyone, not to be able – to stay with the example – to deal with disabilities. It’s the job of all of us to make it clear that we do not know something and the job of all of us to communicate our diversity. And to give space and time so that others can adapt to it. It always takes everyone.