The Center's eighteen employees were assembled in the conference room. The meeting was a lunch potluck that would extend into the afternoon, and people had brought a myriad of dishes, from enchiladas to Cobb salad to barbecued ribs. Joe noticed that the staff sat mostly in groups according to whether they had administrative or professional duties. Only Melody broke ranks, sitting between her fellow Inclusiveness Committee members, Marcie and Luisa.
"Hi everyone, and welcome," said Joe. "I'd like to introduce Ed Williams. He's going to be working with us through the process of improving the inclusiveness of the Center." Joe spoke about Ed's background, and then Ed stood up.
"Thanks for having me here, and thank you for your willingness to take the journey we're about to embark on," said Ed. "This is important work, and you're to be congratulated on your commitment to making it happen. Now," he pulled the cap off of a marker and turned to a flip chart on which he'd written the day's agenda. "Our main goal today is to establish a basis for why we're doing this work. We're going to think about a definition for inclusiveness, in terms of what it means for this organization. Then we'll look at the benefits and costs of becoming more inclusive. Finally, we'll end the day with an overview of what's next. Does that sound straightforward?" Several team members nodded.
"First, though, I'd like to ask Joe and the other members of the Inclusiveness Committee to set the stage by sharing why they think this work is important," Ed said.
Joe began, "You all heard about my experience at the hospital during our retreat a month or so ago. What you don't know is that my commitment to this work started much further back, when I was a resident." Joe shared a story about how he had witnessed one of the supervising doctors using a dramatically different bedside manner with white patients and patients of color, and that this resulted in different treatment outcomes for the patients. Marcie then described the challenges that she had faced over the years, as a black woman in a field that was dominated by men. Melody told the staff about a situation where a co-worker in a previous job had assumed she was "good at math" because she was Asian.
Other members shared similarly affecting and personal stories, each ending with a commitment to helping CHC build inclusiveness. Eleanor was the last person to speak. She appeared visibly moved by what she had heard. "I'm going to be honest with everyone," she said. "I was only doing this because I thought my new boss wanted me to." Joe frowned with concern. Eleanor continued, "I really thought, we have a great organization and we don't have problems in these areas. But now, after hearing these stories and reading the materials in the workbook, I think this is a good thing to do. Even if we're just making sure that none of these stories could happen here."
Marcie, who was sitting next to Eleanor, gave her colleague's hand a squeeze.
"Thank you, Eleanor," said Ed. "Now it's time to think about a definition of inclusiveness, and the benefits and costs for becoming more inclusive," said Ed. "The Inclusiveness Committee will be taking your input from today, and the input from the Board in a similar session, and developing a draft case statement for you to look at. You will then approve the final version of the case statement before our next session together."
In the middle of the following week, Ed sat in the conference room with the CHC Board of Directors. He reviewed an agenda that was similar to the staff's, though discussion times would be somewhat abbreviated. Then he asked Beth, Jeff, and Joe to set the stage.
After Joe finished describing his experiences at the hospital, Jeff said simply, "Folks, I work for a company that reaches out to the Latino community as customers. We tried doing this without having people who understood the culture on staff. It didn't work. This convinced me that you have to pay attention to culture when you do business, and the business of the Center is no different."
Before she spoke, Beth looked around at the nine other Board members, all of whom were white and well-dressed. "I want to tell you about my son-in-law," she said. "His name is Jorge Medina." Beth described her son-in-law's upbringing as the child of migrant farm workers, his struggles to make his way in school, his acceptance to Stanford, and his success as an attorney. "As I've gotten to know Jorge, I've come to understand that his experiences in our society are different from mine. I tell you his story because I want you to understand how personal this work is to me. I want to do my part to make the world, and especially my corner of it, as accepting and inclusive as possible."
Beth took a deep breath. Joe leaned over and whispered, "I think you got to them." Several members of the Board were already raising their hands in response to Ed's request for feedback on the definitions of inclusiveness he had distributed. After recording their input, Ed passed out the staff's responses to the worksheets about the benefits and costs of becoming more inclusive.
Mrs. Dreyfuss, who hadn't yet spoken, reviewed the responses and raised her hand. "This says we may be raising less money in years to come if we don't emphasize reaching out to different communities. How can that be true? This Board has always been good at raising money."
Ed gave her an overview of the changing demographics of the community, and he encouraged her to note that the staff had already come up with several suggestions about how fundraising might be different if the organization were more inclusive.
"Well," she said, "I hadn't realized that this discussion would change everything."
Joe and Beth looked at each other and smiled. This wasn't going to be easy, but they were making progress.
- Stories from the Journey
- Examples of Having Courageous Conversations
- Agreements for Courageous Conversations and Active Learning
- Inclusiveness at Work (publication)
- Inside Inclusiveness (publication)
- Fictional Case Study
- Inspirational Quotes