Authenticity and Inclusion – connecting the dots

connecting the dots

My work has been focused on diversity and inclusion from the beginning, and over the past 2-3 years, authenticity has become my third primary focus. There are a number of reasons for this. 1- I am trying to fill my buzzword bingo card. 2- My own personal experience tells me that authenticity is hard work that matters to both the individual and the collective. 3- I have come to realize that it is directly connected to my other areas of focus, diversity and inclusion.

While I have thought about and reflected on the connection between these three things to the point where that connection is obvious to me, I realize that it is not self-evident to everyone.

I am very much looking forward to a workshop that I am doing on April 1st in Rochester, NY (which you should come to!) being organized by the Workforce Diversity Network. This workshop is going to be directly focused on authenticity, diversity and inclusion and I have had a few people ask how and why authenticity fits into a diversity and inclusion workshop.

One way to answer that question is to revisit the idea of inclusion. What is it that we are hoping or wanting to include? I define the act or practice of inclusion in this way: inclusion is the actions that you take to deliberately include additional difference in a group, or process. That helps us remember that it is an activist thing, not simply an attitude or the absence of “bad” behaviors. But it is incomplete because it does to tell us anything about the experience of being included.

When I ask people to explain what it feels like to work, live, play, learn or worship in a place that feels inclusive to them, they say things like this:

“…home away from home…”


“…able to bring my whole self to work…” (this one comes up a lot)

“…feeling that my unique contribution was valued…”

“…my perspective is always considered…”

“…I have a say in what happens…”

My definition does not capture any of this, which is something that has been poking me in the brain for a while. Thankfully for all of us, Brene Brown is here on this planet with us and as I have been looking for some additional language to add to my framework for understanding diversity and inclusion some of her words lit me on fire, as they have the tendency to do.

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.


She is talking about the idea of connection here, but I think she has given us some wonderful language for understanding inclusion, which is on some level about a certain kind of connection with people and place.

Diversity and inclusion work is not simply a matter of being able to add people to the payroll that may look or live differently than you, we want them to bring their difference to work, we want them to be whole and authentic at work and we want that to be a positive experience for them.

As unique, one of a kind individuals, if you and I are authentic (if we are being true to ourselves), there is going to be difference (or diversity) between us. So diversity is rooted in authenticity, and inclusion is about the creation of spaces where individuals can be authentic and they can benefit individually and collectively from their shared difference and the creative tension that comes with it.

The first contribution you can make to a more inclusive culture where you live, work and play is to make sure that you are being true to who you are.

Be good to each other.


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