It Starts with Me

Inclusion is often defined as “the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate”, “a community where ‘we’ is everyone”, or “A community or organization that embraces human differences, sees them as strengths, and offers respect in both words and actions for all people.”

Those are all nice, but how do we achieve them? Most people think they are friendly and welcoming. People say “I treat everyone the same.” “I’m nice to everybody.” “I don’t see colour.” The problem with these statements is that we are not acknowledging difference and the challenges and barriers that difference presents certain populations.

When working on being more inclusive we should examine intent vs. impact. Without education about what being inclusive truly means, well-meaning individuals and organizations can make grave mistakes and create problems unintentionally.

Think about this: “Who are the People in Your Neighbourhood?” Spend time considering who you encounter in your world. Who is different? How might those differences affect the way that person goes through their days? Remember that It is very important to educate yourself in ways other than having marginalized friends and colleagues educate you. It’s not their responsibility to explain to a privileged person all that they have had to face and what they need allies or equity advocates to do to help. Seek out local and online resources to learn more. (See link below)

Here are “Ten Tips from Tymm – things you can do to be more inclusive today”:

1. Think about intent vs. impact. Just because something is being done with good intentions doesn’t mean it’s needed or appreciated by others.

2. Do things “in a good way”. Be genuine. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

3. Practice cultural humility. Understand that there are different ways of knowing and doing, and that some people, because of their identities, will have more power and privilege than others.

4. Share the pronouns you use when introducing yourself in meetings. Add them to your email signature and event name tags. For example, “Hi. My name is Tymm and my pronouns are she and her.”

5. Ask about food considerations when planning catering or potluck events. Some people have allergies. Some are vegetarians. Some don’t eat certain foods because of their faiths. “I don’t really like mushrooms” is not a food consideration.

6. Find out what holy days your friends, coworkers and neighbours are celebrating. Get a Multifaith Calendar. Learn about them and ask to be included in their festivities.

7. Acknowledge the Indigenous territory you’re on when hosting events. Add it to your website or a sign at your building.

8. Be aware of your own bias and prejudices. We all have them. It’s normal. Awareness allows us to be mindful of their impact when dealing with others.

9. Take GBA+ (Gender-Based Analysis Plus) training. It’s about more than gender and it’s free and online.

10. Use the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule assumes everyone has the same needs and we know that’s not true. The Platinum Rule asks us to think about what the other person actually needs instead of guessing or assuming. Ask about inclusion – what do people need? Involve the people you’re trying to be inclusive of.

Tymmarah (Tymm) Mackie is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at The City of Lethbridge. Cell: 403-360-4967 | Email: |

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