Intergenerational Diversity & Inclusion - A Panel Discussion (March 11, 2018)
On March 11, 2018, Inclusion NextWork held its first Community Conversation: a panel discussion focused on intergenerational diversity & inclusion (D&I). Our distinguished multi-generational panelists included Patricia Bory (Faculty, University of Maryland/Founder, Include Consulting) from Generation X, Nial Rele (Senior Assistant Director Admissions, Middlebury College) from Millennials/Generation Y, and Mary-Frances Winters (CEO & President of The Winters Group) of the Baby Boomer generation. We discussed where D&I has been, where we are right now, and where we need to go in order to drive the greatest impact.
The panelists highlighted the importance of this time as an opportunity to build on the momentum in diversity & inclusion and work across different generations. We are at a crossroads, so we have to stay vigilant, avoid complacency, and continue to ask ourselves what is next in this work so that we can keep pushing ourselves to innovate and meet the challenges that are ahead. A strong and connected intersectional pipeline of D&I advocates and leaders will be critical to the sustainability and evolution of this work.
Our speakers identified several themes that will be critical for the future:
Redefining inclusion: for younger generations, inclusion refers to a deeper sense of belonging and the co-creation of spaces, cultures, and systems.
Exchanging stories: sharing our stories will increase understanding and strengthen relationships
Reciprocal mentorship: each generation can learn from one another, and we have to actively foster a culture of mentoring and learning across difference
For a more detailed reflection on these topics, click here.
The panelists also answered questions from the audience:
What can you do when you experience a discrepancy between an organization’s stated diversity and inclusion commitment and what occurs and is experienced in practice?
One of the panelists recommended that before joining an organization, you should ask a lot of questions about their D&I work. Do your homework online and through your network. If you’re experiencing a misalignment once inside the organization, try to distinguish between what the organization as a whole is doing, and what you’re experiencing directly in your department or team, or with your manager. People join companies but leave managers; in other words, sometimes the lack of inclusion is not necessarily true across the organization, but may be specific to your leader. Another panelist suggested to use your newness to the organization to your advantage to ask questions and explore with your leader how to improve D&I. If you experience a gap at any time of your career, the panelists also encouraged participant to consider supporting, developing, or leading initiatives that will help to close it. If there continues to be a significant discrepancy, you may want to consider making an employer change if you need to.
How can organizations help to foster intergenerational dialogue and reciprocal mentoring?
Our panelists noted that organizations can encourage a culture of dialogue, learning, feedback, and mentorship in many different ways. This can be done in formal and informal ways. They may want to institutional a reciprocal mentorship program or organize town halls or discussion circles to connect across difference and talk about difficult topics. Training and opportunities for giving and receiving feedback are also important, and leaders have to model these behaviors consistently.
Do you recommend leaving out “diversity” from the name of a D&I initiative to avoid potential controversy?
One of the panelists felt strongly that language matters; what we choose to say or not say has an impact. Language around diversity and inclusion has changed over time and continues to evolve. Sometimes the term “inclusion” is more popular now because it is thought to be better received by the masses. Diversity can make some people feel uncomfortable, especially those who enjoy privileges of dominant identity dimensions. However, D&I work requires us to lean into discomfort and diversity is a critical concept; you cannot have inclusion without diversity, so why not call it what it is? Another panelist noted that we also see terms like access and equity emerging as part of D&I language, especially on university campuses.