Inclusivity and Representation - Our responsibility as business owners
I had this post all scheduled to go and then I got scared. I had all of the ‘what if I say the wrong thing’ or ‘do I really have something useful to add to the conversation around inclusivity and diversity’ fears. But you know what - this is too important for my own ego to get in the way. If I say something stupid or offensive, let me know! I’m still very much a learner here.
I’ve been taken in by the conversation online around inclusivity and representation that’s come on to my radar recently. It was brought to my attention by a few people I follow on Instagram. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about go and check out Rabya’s multifaceted WOC Instagram highlight which will bring you up to speed.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed to think of where I was with this just a few months ago - not even noticing that my favorite brands only feature white models or that the podcasts I listened to are all by white podcasters or that my Instagram feed was largely white. I was too blinded by my white privilege to notice.
I was shaken awake by something Rabya Lomas said in her stories - ‘Wake the fuck up’ (if you’ve seen her multifascited WOC highlights you’ll get the wider context of what she was sharing). I wasn’t offended by that, in fact it put a fire under me to start educating myself. Rabya had a point - I needed to wake the fuck up.
Wake the fuck up!
Now that I’ve woken the fuck up to these issues (and when I say woken up I mean in the stirring phase – I still have A LOT to learn) I’ve made a conscious effort to start educating myself. With these issues more front of mind I’ve started noticing a lack of inclusion and representation all over the place. I see brands that only work with white influencers and judging panels with only white faces and collaborations where all of the collaborators are white. It seems blindingly obvious to me now that there’s been an oversight – any consideration of inclusivity and diversity has been completely missed.
I’ve started to experience the anger and frustration that BIPOC men and women have been dealing with for all of their lives. I’ve started to understand how not seeing anyone like you in these spaces could make you feel like ‘that’s clearly not for me’ or ‘I’m not welcome in that profession/space’ – whether it’s in the models that brands use, the influencers that get all of the praise or the authors that get shouted about the most.
Be part of the change you want to see in the world
You see, its all of our responsibilities to encourage change and we should all want to see a true representation of the world we live in, right? Whether that’s on our Instagram feeds, in the models that brands hire, in speaking and judging panels or in the blogs we read.
Here are a few things that I’ve been doing to educate myself, make positive changes in my business and encourage change where I can. I hope this list might inspire you. If you have a suggestion to add to this list please email me or drop me a DM on Instagram.
If there’s a certain kind of account/ imagery/ person/ brand you like to follow on Instagram, the algorithm will keep serving up suggestions of similar accounts for you to follow. This in itself is problematic as we get stuck in an echo chamber of opinions, perspectives and viewpoints that are very similar, if not the same as our own.
To diversify your feed you need to start finding some completely different accounts to what Instagram thinks you want to see. Have a look at who other people are following, you can always start by perusing the accounts I follow and go from there. When you follow a new account have a look at the ‘suggestions for you’ that drop down on that person’s profile once you’ve followed. These will be similar accounts to the one you’ve just followed - according to Instagram’s algorythum. I’ve loved this process, finding new voices, new points of view, new talent I wasn’t aware of. Having an Instagram feed that’s much more representative of the world we live in means being able to pull inspiration from a wider pool of creatives, learn new and interesting stuff and create a richer community around you online.
Change up your reading and listening
I noticed that far too many of the books I had read and the podcasts I was listening to were by white men and women. Having subscribed to a host of new-to-me podcasts and added new books by authors who don’t look like me to my reading list I’m loving hearing new stories, new opinions and outlooks on life. Some are thought provoking, some inspire me to get up earlier or reset my routine and some are just hilarious.
I have a couple of posts; the best podcasts for side-hustlers and the best business books for creative side-hustlers which might make a good starting point if you’re looking to expand your reading and listening material. And please, let me know what you think I should be adding to these lists that are created by BIPOC men and women.
Consider inclusivity and representation in your business
Making space for a more diverse range of voices through my work has become a much bigger consideration for me. Whether it’s the guests I invite onto my podcast, the people I feature on my blog or the accounts and posts I re-share on social media. I want to make my work richer and more well-rounded by opening up space to hear fresh ideas, new perspectives and refreshing advice.
Use your voice
Use your voice in support of those whose voices might not be given as much time or space as yours. Support BIPOC women and men’s work, lift it up, shout about it, give it the air time it deserves. Support and share brands’ work and collaborations where inclusivity and representation has been thoughtfully considered.
So, there are my thoughts on the topic of Inclusivity and representation right now. I know I still have much to learn but I hope that if you’re at a similar stage to me in your education that this post has helped to find some new podcasts/ blogs/ books/ accounts from BIPOC women and men. More than anything I hope it’s encouraged to you make inclusivity and diversity a bigger consideration, scratch that, PRIORITY in the content you consume, the brands you support and also in the work you do in your business.