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Representation - Whose Voice Matters?
Reflecting on a different leadership (and meeting) experience
About a year or so ago, I wrote about being in an all-Black Zoom call and how my mind was blown by being in such a space. Since I’ve changed the work I do, I’ve been in many such spaces since. For example, one of my favourites was the DEI Experts of Colour Circle, created by Ellen Wagner. Though it’s been on hiatus for a while, it’s a space where we come together as equals, make joint decisions about discussion priorities and offer mutual help and support. It’s a space where I’m talkative, which for anyone who knows me is quite something. I’m also pretty partial to Kimberley John-Morgan’s Lunch Counter, which has a similar vibe but even more salt!
But that’s not the space that made me reflect on this today. As you know, I’m a Co-Founder of Mission Equality, a company focused on equality through leadership development and education. More importantly, the company focuses on modeling what equality looks like by embedding it into our own practices.
One foundational idea was having majority Black and Brown leadership, advisors and staff. We’re just moving past the sweat equity startup stage, but people have been flocking to the company to see what this looks like in action. And one thing it looks like is our team meetings: 6 people in the room, 4 of them from the Global Majority. Everyone in the room trusted to look after their area, but getting support from wherever and whoever they needed within the company. For many of us, the optics made a powerful statement - both Global Majority and white colleagues noticed it.
Beyond the optics, the experience has also been different from the toxic workplaces many of us have been in previously. As we all know, it’s not just enough to be in the room. It’s about what happens when you’re there - and what doesn’t happen.
What doesn’t happen at Mission Equality meetings is people feeling left out and unheard. What does happen is making meetings as smooth and inclusive as possible. We have a quick accessibility check at the start and are always looking for even more ways to improve on accessibility. We always record meetings and enable transcription.
When attending, it’s ok to be off camera or to have your kids in the room hanging onto your neck, or to step out if you have a family situation to deal with. We are truly people-first, and proud of it, with a no-rush, no-hustle culture. (See our Black Paper on Equality for more on this.)
Everything’s written down, and people have a chance to read what the meeting’s about at the start before asking questions. People have the chance to expand on their bit if they wish, but don’t have to.
Most importantly, everyone’s voice matters - in a recent meeting we had in-depth discussions on the use of AI. Not everyone agreed, but everyone was heard.
Representation combined with a valued voice is a powerful start, don’t you think?
Would be allies, what do your meeting rooms look like in terms of representation and share of voice? How could you make them better?
Thanks for reading,
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I’ll be speaking at Your Message Matters on June 21 on LinkedIn - join us?
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
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