Inclusion Matters

Without inclusion we will never achieve real diversity

‘Inclusion matters – not because it is a ‘hot topic’, or because our policies and strategies say we should be more inclusive. It matters because without inclusion we will never address the issues that prevent women from diverse backgrounds taking on new challenges and being able to see real career progression. Without inclusion we will never achieve real diversity and the benefits that brings in terms of skills and experience that contribute to our success and allow us to better serve our population.

When I sat down to draft this I started thinking what do we mean by inclusion? Does it mean, to not leave any one out? To give equal access to opportunities and resources? There are a number of ways to define inclusion but the one that resonated with me is: ‘people across varying identities are and feel valued, welcomed, respected, included, represented, and heard and that they fully belong, can be authentic, can contribute to the collective, and have a voice‘.

There are lots of impactful and powerful words in this definition but for me the words ARE and FEEL are absolutely key. They might not be the words you expect, but for me they are fundamental in this definition. That is because in the workplace we are impacted by our perception and our lived experience and teams will only really feel we are shifting the dial if their perception and experiences of our actions are different to their prior experience.

Lived experience can have a huge and long lasting impact on how we feel about our work and our workplace. What may seem to be minor words or actions can have a big impact. Not long after I returned to work following my second child, I was working a 4 day week and I distinctly remember someone saying to me, while trying to arrange a meeting, ‘Oh I forgot you ONLY work part time’. This was a throw away comment and a small word but had  a big impact on how I felt about being in that team as a working mum. I felt excluded. It is the little things, like arranging meetings at 8am, or asking the female in the room to take notes that that can have a big impact on how included or valued we feel in a team. And yet we now have more tools than ever to enable us to be inclusive: Teams allows us to chair meetings in a way that everyone can have a voice; we have more ability to work flexibly, at home, through compressed hours, part time etc, we have tools to de-bias the language in job descriptions and tools make our recruitment processes open to everyone.

It is now down to us to us these tools to make sure people ARE and FEEL included. #inspireinclusion’

Laragh Walton,
Chair of the London Women in Leadership Network,
Deputy CFO, University College London Hospital NHS FT