How was your Thanksgiving? Or Friendsgiving for those who couldn’t unite with their families. I am sure it was a deserved break to be welcomed by family and friends. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and also a moment to recharge for the last months of the year.
This holiday weekend illustrates a conversation I have had a lot lately. The idea of Belonging. It is the theme of my talks, many one-on-ones and my conference. Belonging is the North Pole of DEI for me and the motivation for changemakers and policymakers alike. Belonging is the way to combat many of the problems we face.
When we feel we truly Belong, we are at our best. Our performance soars, our confidence overpowers, and our insecurities are long behind us. You cheer for your local team because of the sport and the connection with fellow fans. Your social media friends are the best version of a friend you could ever ask for and ways accessible. If you have been part of a start-up, you felt like it was home because the mission was so inspiring. That is Belonging.
My ask is this. How can you create belonging in our world today? How can you make change and battle through the noise? How can we all?
You didn’t ask, but here is my answer. I believe in creating Belonging in society; we need to focus on five things:
We need to create equity. This pandemic has been elitist, sexist, and racist. Never before have we witnessed such a great divide, and it will only worsen. When some folks don’t have running water, breakfast, or heat, and others pursue tax loopholes, how will we create balance?
We need to amplify voices. It isn’t enough to put up black squares on social or wear orange shirts. The people with the mic need to help those without by opening doors and stages to speak with our support and conviction helping them.
We need to reimagine ecosystems. When non-marginalized people control investment, software programming, and what gets taught in schools, the playing field is not only tilted; it is a minefield. Racism is systemic and pervasive in our ecosystems.
We need to demand results. How long can we wait for things to change? Ten years ago, at the 2012 London Olympics, the women’s gold medal soccer match filled Wembley. In 2022 we are celebrating the same fandom, but have we come close to levelling the investment in women’s sports? No!
We need to protect our Belonging as it is one thing to be fearless in life but another to be fierce. If we believe in a world where no matter what you look like, how you move, who you love, or how you identify is essential, you need to be fierce because the opposition to acceptance is angry, powerful, and organized.
I was recently on a trip to the States and, as is my custom, ate dinner alone at the hotel bar. In minutes I wound up in a four-way conversation with a group of strangers. There was a dentist, a lawyer, a bar manager and me. That is how a marketer would have identified them. The dentist was a budding entrepreneur, the lawyer had a child who was transitioning, and the bar manager was adopted and searching for her birth family. So that is how a preacher believing in Belonging would look at this trio.
Someone once said we don’t get to choose our families. I agree, but we do belong to them.