The author of Inclusion on Purpose walks you through practical strategies that will help you make meaningful change on your teams.
Ruchika Tulshyan is the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy consultation firm. She has also been a business journalist, covering diversity and leadership for Forbes.
Below, Tulshyan shares five key insights from her new book, Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. Listen to the audio version—read by Tulshyan herself—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. INCLUSION TAKES INTENTION—IT DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN NATURALLY.
In 2015, I read a statistic that explained all the confusion I’d been feeling as an immigrant woman of color in America. Public Religion Research Institute found that three-quarters of white people in America don’t have a friend of color. For many Americans, the first time they meaningfully interact with someone from a different racial background is in the workplace. This made sense of why I had spent the majority of my corporate career feeling like an outsider in white-run organizations. Many people I worked with didn’t know what to make of me, with a name like Ruchika and my unfamiliar accent.
I’ve since learned that inclusion takes intention and regular practice. It doesn’t happen by chance. We’re hardwired to be drawn toward people like us, so we need to constantly disrupt our natural approach. We need to develop an acute awareness of who is represented, who’s getting hired, promoted, or thought of as leaders—and who is not.
It is impossible to correct what you can’t identify. To make meaningful progress, we must specifically seek what exclusion looks like, and the experiences of women of color are key to this inquiry. Then, it’s up to us to take the right steps to fix these issues, from advancing women of color to taking personal actions to be more inclusive.
2. WOMEN OF COLOR MUST BE CENTER IN ALL INCLUSION EFFORTS.
In 1989, the incredible Professor Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe how the exclusion Black women faced in the workplace was not only due to gender bias, but was compounded by racism. All the women of color I interviewed shared how they face distinctly more negative experiences compared with white colleagues—even white women.
Shefali Kulkarni, a South Asian journalist, talked about facing harrowing exclusion while doing her job. None of her white colleagues were aware of the severity of her situation. Many women of color share the acute pain of being overlooked and underestimated, of being invisible and hyper-visible at the same time.