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Designing an Inclusive Future

Think about your business. What do you want people to say about it in five, ten, even fifty years? What’s the legacy you want to leave behind to be associated with your brand? The word “legacy” has such a… larger-than-life connotation to it, but your legacy doesn’t have to be huge. Maybe your main goal in business is to have the best cupcakes in the tri-state area. Or maybe you just want to make people smile through fun little trinkets or things like pet accessories.

Whatever it is, if you’re coming to a brand designer for help with curating your unique brand, it’s a good question to think about. “What do you want to be remembered for?”

I’ve always been ambitious

In sitting down to really figure out my business, I’d hear or read the question, “What’s your mission?” And to me, that has always felt like a leading question, of sorts. Like there’s a correct answer and that correct answer is, in some way or another, “to change the world.” And having that as a mission feels… lofty and pretentious to me. Because how could I, a single-member business, possibly end world hunger or homelessness through design? And yet… I also think it would be amazing to be a part of some huge, systemic change. Thus began my snowballing crusade to create a mission statement.

The original mission statement that I came up with when I first started taking entrepreneurship seriously was something along the lines of, “To champion woman-owned businesses to make meaningful change, no matter how big or small.” I still don’t think that’s a bad mission, to be completely honest. I still agree with it. As a woman business owner myself, I absolutely want to be a part of a community of women who support and lift each other up, so we can take over the world.

That last bit is mostly a joke.

Women are powerful. We prove that time and time again, all throughout history. But we’re not the only ones who have been kept down and told to hide who we are so that “the boys can play.”

The goal is not world domination

We don’t to take over the world. Well, some people may want that, but the majority simply want there to be a power balance. To have a place at the table because they brought some really amazing dessert and they’d like to share it with everyone. Rather than have the dessert plucked from their hands and not getting even a crumb, on top of not even getting to sit down.

The goal is to be inclusive

There are over 8 billion people on this planet. Living conditions vary for everyone, but there’s space for all of us. Even if we’ve had to make space in areas of the world. If we can make space for more people on a planet that is physically limited, why can’t we make space for everyone in the workplace? Whether that means encouraging and supporting others in starting their own business ventures or simply making a workplace more inclusive… why is that a difficult thing?

I’ve titled this post “Designing the Future” because:

  1. I’m a designer (👋🏻 hi, I’m obvious and thought I was being punny)
  2. My goal is to support and uplift companies who are working toward a more inclusive future

Progress starts with one person saying “Enough is enough” and taking a single step to change something that isn’t working. I have gotten so tired of hearing from multiple people, “That’s just the society we live in” or “That’s just how things are done.” Or, from other business owners, “It’s the way things are, it’s not up to me.” And that line has always felt lazy and placating to me. And has also always irritated me, if I’m being honest.

If you’re a business owner, it is up to you. Maybe not on a national or global scale, but you can build your business the way you want to build it. If you want it to be just like every other business in the industry, then that’s up to you. But if you want to see something change, you need to first be that change. Once you take that step, others will follow suit.

What does being inclusive mean?

There are already anti-discrimination laws, but I’m sure you probably know someone who’s experienced discrimination in the workplace. Or maybe you are the one who has experienced it. It’s just… quiet discrimination. These companies know it’s illegal, so they don’t say anything outright, but they make you feel some type of way. And it happens too often to not be intentional.

Inclusivity simply means that everyone feels included. It means that no matter your background, identity, or circumstances, you feel respected. That your voice is heard, your input is welcomed, and your perspective is valued.

What does being inclusive look like?

Flexibility

One part of being an inclusive workplace is something I talked about last week – workplace flexibility. Since I’ve already gone into detail on that, I won’t talk much about it here. But if you missed last week’s post and want to know more about what workplace flexibility entails, give it a quick read! The main thing I want to bring up here from the flexibility topic is “business hours.” The rigid 9-5 or 8-5 that has been the “standard” for decades is just not possible for many people and therefore excludes them from even having a position.

Offering scheduling flexibility provides them the opportunity for a position that they may have been dreaming about for years. Flexibility also makes people feel like people and not cogs in the machine – that goes a long way in making them feel valued. Check out last week’s post for more ways that flexibility plays into being inclusive!

Benefits

You might be thinking, “But flexibility is a benefit.” And, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. It should be standard. And “benefits” includes things like substantial parental leave for all genders, disability accommodations, mental health support, and extensive health insurance plans (in America, where health insurance is tied to employment).

These types of benefits support people in their ever-changing lives and make them feel valued. Knowing that an employer cares and actively works to foster that sense of belonging and equity goes a long way in retaining good employees.

The term “benefit” in and of itself implies that it is a “nice to have” instead of a necessity. Things like retirement accounts, wellness stipends, food or mileage stipends – to me, those are benefits. Parental leave and health insurance are necessities. But I digress.

Communication Practices

Using someone’s preferred pronouns when speaking to or about them is an excellent start. Using inclusive language like “partner” or “spouse” in place of “husband” or “girlfriend.” There’s nothing wrong with using the gendered terms, but replacing one of those words with “partner,” normalizes the use of gender-neutral language. Doing so helps to bring more awareness to the LGBTQIA+ community. The more we can normalize inclusive language, the less someone will feel “other” for not fitting “the norm.” (As if being straight is ‘the norm’ 🙄)

Using culturally respectful language is also so important. If you say something that is actually a slur (even if you didn’t know it), it’s harmful. Being inclusive means learning what’s harmful and why, and then not doing it again. There are respectful ways to communicate with everyone.

If someone is from a country other than your own and they have a name that you have no idea how to pronounce – ask them. And then learn it. If they have a preferred name to be called, that’s one thing, but if they give you an easier name to pronounce than their actual name simply because it’s easier to say? They deserve the basic respect of being addressed by their own name. We’ve learned how to pronounce Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. We have the capability to learn other cultures and languages. Let’s nurture new friendships and relationships and learn about each other.

Growth

The biggest thing that (I believe) goes into an inclusive work environment is a mindset. To be truly inclusive, the people in an organization need to be willing to constantly learn and grow on a personal level. Being accepting of other peoples’ experiences and willing to look at things from someone else’s perspective is going to drive a lot of personal growth.

Because doing so reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. And everyone needs that wake up call every so often. Some need it more than others.

More ways to be inclusive

This is by no means a comprehensive list of ways to be inclusive in the workplace, nor does it encompass all of the good that comes from being inclusive. But it is a start. If you want to read more about inclusivity, check out the articles linked below.

  1. What An Inclusive Workplace Actually Looks Like, And Seven Ways To Achieve It
  2. How to Build a More Inclusive Workplace Culture
  3. How to Develop and Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Initiative

My Mission

So what do I mean by “Designing the Future?”

I am not an employer. I’m a business owner, but I do not currently employ people and at this point in time, I have no intention to do so at any point. I like being responsible for myself and only myself. However, I love uplifting others. Sharing, supporting, and being a patron of businesses who loudly and proudly advertise their dedication to being inclusive is important to me. Our children deserve to grow up in a world where everyone feels welcomed at the table for who they are. Where their voices and experiences are heard and valued.

In thinking about my “legacy,” I want to be known for high-quality and impactful design (of course), but I also want to be known for being compassionate and kind. For providing an amazing and memorable client experience and for being welcoming and inclusive.

I want to work with businesses who value all walks of life and understand that people are not machines. I want to help these businesses define and visualize their stories in a way that will make them stand out from everyone else stuck in the “that’s just how it’s done” trenches. We are powerful. And we can carve out that path into a more inclusive and equitable future.

If any of this resonated with you – if you’re a business owner who is ready to step up and unapologetically take up space and build a more inclusive future, reach out and let’s chat! I’d love to hear more about your business and goals and figure out how we can support and build this community together.

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