One Innovative Way to Talk About Diversity & Inclusion at Work

One Innovative Way to Talk About Diversity & Inclusion at Work

Navigating our differences in the workplace is not easy. Learning to recognize and appreciate our diversity is even harder – especially when employees have few outlets to display their true selves at work.

A Harvard Business Review piece published in March explored this very idea with black women in the workplace. “A lot of women told me that they code-switched,” wrote author Maura Cheeks, “which involves embracing the dominant culture or vernacular among certain groups (like co-workers, for example) and switching to a more authentic self when around friends and family.”

André Aciman

Image: André Aciman via Wikimedia Commons

These uncomfortable realities are universal in the workplace. No workforce is uniform in race, gender, background, education and ability. Providing a space for open and honest dialogue around issues of difference – where colleagues can share experiences and unmask themselves – is vital to any inclusion strategy.

At Books@Work, we invite this sharing through inquiry and conversation. Today, we explore how a narrative essay by André Aciman provides a springboard for a sincere discussion around issues of diversity & inclusion. In the essay, Aciman reminisces about his mother, who experienced both the challenges and successes of life as a deaf woman. As you read, consider how you might use a short text like “Are You Listening?” to spur critical dialogue in your own organization.

Questions to consider:

    • Why do we jump so quickly from pity to cruelty toward those we don’t understand?
    • Do we mask our differences differently at home versus at work?
  • How can we accommodate those who can’t communicate like we do?

Are You Listening?
By André Aciman

I always knew my mother couldn’t hear, but I can’t remember when it dawned on me that she’d always be deaf. If I was told, I didn’t believe it. It was no different when I learned about sex. Someone may have sat me down for the facts of life, and although I wasn’t really shocked and probably already knew, I couldn’t bring myself to trust any of it. In between knowing something and refusing to know it lies a murky chasm that even the most enlightened among us are perfectly happy to inhabit. If anyone gave me the official report on my mother, it would have been my grandmother, who did not like her daughter-in-law and who found my mother’s deaf friends as repellent as ungainly fowls squawking in her son’s living room. If it wasn’t my grandmother, it would have been the way people made fun of my mother on the street.

Continue reading in The New Yorker.

Image: Juan Gris, The Three Masks, 1923, [Public Domain] via

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Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan

Maredith Sheridan is a Development Communications Associate at the Cleveland Orchestra and a part-time member of the Books@Work team. She continues to write posts for our blog.