I recently attended a luncheon educational event, and the room was like every other I’ve walked into. You’ve probably been here too – tables dotting the space, each half full, and – for lack of a better word – segregated.
That word has history, doesn’t it?Segregated. Ouch. It conjures images of Martin Luther King, fire hoses, marches, the struggle for civil and economic equality. Rosa Parks, bus seats, and boycotts. This social practice still stands, except now we self-segregate.
My luncheon was a house divided. There was the table of middle-aged white men in the back corner. The table of young Asian American women to the front left of the podium. And, I soon learned, the other tables were filled withgroups of people who worked in the same department.
I watched this pattern continue to repeat as new people walked through the door. They signed in, looked up, and paused. “Who do I know?” “Where am I comfortable?” In fact, as I signed in, and looked up, I wondered who I knew. It’s daunting to do something different, to reach beyond our self-segregation. Fortunately for me, I didn’t know anyone. So, I sat where I was unknown and contributed to the difference instead of the sameness.
I talk a lot about the importance of Diversity and Inclusion. I hear business leaders talking about it too. Yet are we embracing it – even in the simplest of ways? The next time you attend a luncheon event, sit down next to someone new. Discover what you have in common. Build inclusion, both inside you, and across the room.
Change lasts when it begins with something small. Let’s do this together.