Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a content writer and freelancer who specializes in women's issues, food, and travel.
An inclusive workplace fights against discrimination by providing equal opportunities for all of its employees, regardless of gender, race, age, etc. Unfortunately, we’re still living in an age where exclusive workplaces are common, often manifesting as ‘boys’ club’ environments.
You might know the feeling—you always feel a little bit like an outsider, no matter how much of an effort you make to break down barriers. Diverse teams are proven to be more efficient and effective, so it’s important to celebrate all employees and create an inclusive culture so that everyone feels empowered to reach their maximum potential.
Here are some out-of-the-box ways to spark conversations about inclusivity and women in the workplace:
1. Stock bathrooms with tampons and pads
This is an incredibly simple step toward a more inclusive workplace. The gesture of providing tampons and pads in office bathrooms says, Hey, we recognize it might be awkward to carry a pad from your desk to the bathroom, and we want you to feel comfortable. Did we mention the cost of these items is another fee your employees who menstruate pay that your other employees don’t? It’s nice to level the playing field a bit. If there’s room for an endless supply of coffee in the office budget, there’s room for sanitary items, too.
2. Watch a ‘women in the workplace’ themed movie
Instead of happy hour, have a more inclusive team bonding night over a movie. Make sure you play movies with more equal representation or movies that enlighten audiences about the struggles women face in the workplace, like Hidden Figures and Pixar’s short film Purl. Also, consider holding more team bonding events during the day—working parents can’t always join the fun after 5 p.m. if they have kids to care for.
3. Start a gender-inclusivity jar
Is your office pretty forward-thinking already? Try placing a gender-inclusivity jar in your common room. Have a discussion with your team about appropriate language in the office, like avoiding referencing a worker’s gender, race, or ability unless absolutely necessary, avoiding phrases that suggest victimhood, and avoiding old gendered idioms like “they’re the low man on the totem pole.” Agree that if you use non-inclusive language in the office, you’ll throw a quarter into the jar. When the jar hits $50, donate the money to charity.
If monetary contributions are frowned upon in your workplace, you can also shoot for a “streak” without gendered language. After a month, everyone gets ice cream.
4. Buy some diverse coffee table books
Skip the People magazines and invest in some meaningful books. Have a balance between light-hearted reads like inspirational quote books and deeper informative books like explaining how diversity and inclusion can benefit a workplace.
5. Reassess artwork around the office
Focus on displaying gender-neutral artwork and decoration around the office. Artwork featuring nature, abstract shapes, company memories, and architecture are always safe bets. Make sure all of the decor in your office promotes good employee values. And if everyone in your artwork looks the same? You’ve got a problem.
6. Have a weekly employee spotlight
Use the company’s social media accounts to lift up different employees each week. Highlight employees who are slayin’ it at work and give them a platform to share their story and background with a larger audience. Make sure when you do so you’re featuring people who represent different experiences, whatever they may be, every week.
7. Start a suggestion box
Place a box in the common room with slips of paper and a pen next to it. Throughout the week, employees can anonymously drop slips into the box with suggestions of how to make the office more inclusive. Follow through by trying some of their suggestions—your employees will appreciate that you listened and were willing to make changes. There’s no harm in trying.
8. Celebrate more diverse holidays
Why go all out only for Christmas? Start celebrating more holidays that focus on women, minorities, and cultures around the world. Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Gay Pride Week are good places to start. Plus, more celebrations mean more fun office parties.
9. Use the Round Robin technique in meetings
During team meetings, ask everyone in the room to contribute their ideas—start with one person then go around the table clockwise. That way, everyone’s voice will be heard—the Round Robin technique ensures one voice isn’t dominating the meeting and helps to prevent interruptions. Make sure your team knows any idea, even a half-baked one, can spark something great.
10. Host a book club
Start a monthly company book club to offer an alternative to happy-hour bonding. Choose books centered on self-development or biographies on inspirational women and minorities. Worried about time? Try an essay or article club, where employees meet for 30 minutes during the day to talk over a shorter piece they’ve all read.
11. Invite a diversity and inclusion speaker to the office
Inviting a guest speaker to come give a talk about inclusivity is the perfect way to engage employees on the topic. Order some pizzas, sit back, and learn how to create a more open and welcoming environment from a pro.
12. Start an external-facing company blog
Ask current employees, especially women and minorities, to contribute to a weekly company blog. Give them a safe space to share their experiences with prospective employees.