If there is anything I have learned in all my work with DEI, it is that all of us take DEI so seriously. This observation is not to say that DEI isn’t a serious topic — it is, because it affects the life and well-being of people everywhere — but simply to offer that instead of getting angry or offended when we have our biases challenged, we should have fun with it! Personally, I have come to love catching my biases. It gives me a chance to laugh at myself, learn from my assumptions, and do better next time I encounter a similar situation. Allow me to share a silly anecdote:
After being a vegetarian for years, I recently started eating meat again. Lo and behold, a butcher opened up shop near my home — “ecstatic” doesn’t do justice to my excitement! I was practically drooling at the thought of being able to buy and prepare a meal with fresh local meat. So, I decided to go check the shop out. As I was driving over, I found myself painting a picture of the butcher in my mind based on cartoons I saw growing up, shows like Tom and Jerry: a big white guy in his 50s, probably balding but wearing a hat, enclothed in an apron spattered with smears and bloodstains. Pretty traditional depiction of a butcher, right?
When I got to the shop, I had to do a double take: where I expected to see a large man with a big belly, before me stood a petite young Asian woman wearing a crisp and clean apron! And you know what? My biases jumped out. I found myself wondering, Can I really trust her with decisions about the meat I want to buy? all because my unconscious biases constructed a specific image of a butcher that this woman’s lived experience did not conform to. Instead of feeling bad or guilty about my assumptions, though, I could laugh at myself! I was able to catch how social programming has taught me to expect butchers to look a certain way. And guess what? I bought an amazing piece of meat, and the butcher even gave me recommendations for how to cook it. Challenged my biases, met someone new, had a wonderful meal — all in a day’s work for those of us dedicated to DEI!
To sum it up: let’s take a deep breath, trust our good intentions, and enjoy the DEI journey.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company with a primary mission for advancing individuals in leadership. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. In addition, she provides guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within the organization.