Diversity: What Does It Mean To Belong?

One of the most interesting comments I think I've heard from both clients, and employees through the years is that The Evans International Law Firms, feels more "diverse" than most other law offices - and other businesses for that matter. As an increasing number of articles, and political conversations circle around diversity, I've seen much of the conversation turn making everyone feel welcome - into a problem. An issue to be solved.

I don't believe that including everyone is a problem, but I do believe that it is an active task. A conscious choice that is lead by a value system that places people first. I've had the awesome opportunity in my lifetime of interacting, and connecting with all different kinds of people from different walks of life. In the time I've spent traveling, and working among other people learning them, I've discovered that everyone you meet is a teacher - with a wealth of knowledge outside of your realm. I also believe that each person you encounter - you were supposed to meet for a reason.

But is it just about companies hiring people of all different colors? Not...*completely*. That's one part of the equation - and one a lot of conversations center on currently in the corporate world. But what happens if your staff is diverse and your policies, and working environment are not? You've got a problem on your hands. Thought it's seldom addressed - herein lies the biggest barrier to companies being successful in integrating inclusive practices.

And is it just race? It's not. There are many different roads through which one may find themselves at an intersection and this is why diversifying the workforce has to be holistically inclusive, and the changes therein achieved through a true understanding of an effort in the direction of equity. Women, People of Color, individuals of all abilities, non-native English speakers, and many others find themselves at these intersections. In order for inclusivity to be legitimate there must be a recognition first that there must be equity - that leads to an eventual equality.

"I've discovered that everyone you meet is a teacher - with a wealth of knowledge outside of your realm - that you were supposed to meet for a reason"

One of the things I love most about my office and the feeling we have is that everyone has such an interesting history, and rich cultural ties. We observe many different cultural holidays and collectively learn about the cultures they come from. This practice alone has expanded my world, and my understanding of how people function in it and has helped me to grow closer to my staff and have a truly nurturing and supportive work environment that breeds excellence.

Most of my full-time staff has the travel bug as I do, and I encourage the exploration of the world. My family and I are heading to China in November, and one of my staff just returned from there, and another from Puerto Rico. Finding this unique blend of cultural observation and work-life balance has kept myself and my staff invigorated and reminded constantly of our grounding.

So what does it mean? To be included? To belong? I think it means "work" being a place where no matter *who* you are - you can be yourself - and be valued for the work and passion you contribute. Belonging means having space to celebrate your self and your culture. Inclusion means making sure everyone who should have a shot gets one - and that those who are often overlooked for opportunity - are given a place to belong. Diversity means looking up and seeing many people who are different from you - because each person is a teacher. Intersectional diversity matters because there are that many more stories and experiences to share and collectively enrich - and so many things to learn.