Letter to the President & CEO of Walmart Canada

12 June 2019

Lee Tappenden, President & CEO

Wal-Mart Canada Corp.

1940 Argentia Road

Mississauga, ON L5N 1P9

Dear Mr. Tappenden,

Recently, it came to our attention Walmart Canada made policy changes greatly affecting your employees, disabled customers, and First Nations customers.

I was visiting your South Barrie store the other day when I discovered it no longer had express checkouts. Instead, I had the option to use the job-stealing self-checkouts or wait in line at one of the beer-toting checkouts. Either had me behind other customers with carts full of stuff vs my three items I was purchasing.

The problem, Mr. Tappenden, is that I have a hidden disability. Waiting in line can actually be unsafe for me, especially as of late due to tiring quickly, there is no where I can wait while the three to ten people in front of me take more than ten minutes each to pay for their purchases.

I further worry for your First Nations and People of Colour customers who may not feel safe in your stores. Who may only come in for two or three things and then quickly leave, now, your new policy forces them to stay longer with no visible security present. Your staff is inadequately trained for this. A First Nations youth shoved into the shelf of an over-crowded aisle might be seen as an “accident” instead of the assault that was intended by the perpetrator.

Your South Barrie store was difficult to navigate as your normally wide primary aisles were crowded in the middle with stock or other items making it difficult to get around.

As a result of this situation, we would like:

  1. The restoration of (at a minimum 3) express checkouts at all Walmart stores in Canada.
  2. Your aisles clear so as to minimize safety issues for your customers.
  3. All staff trained in First Aid, CPR, and AED.
  4. All Walmart stores in Canada equipped with an AED.
    1. All staff informed of its location.
  5. Assistance for customers with disabilities, visible or hidden.



Peter V. Tretter

President & CEO

Journey to Diversity Workplaces


Top 5 articles of 2018!

We are fortunate to see an increase in visits to our website in 2018 with lots of help from our active volunteers! Now we present the top 5 articles visitors read on our website in 2018.

5. How to deal with religious accommodations in the Workplace

Freedom of religion, in Canada, is a constitutionally protected right that allows religious believers the freedom to assemble and worship without limitation or interference. Religious discrimination is treating individuals differently in their employment because of their religion, their religious beliefs and practices, denying their reasonable request for accommodation or a change in a workplace rule or policy that denies employees equal opportunities due to their religious beliefs or practices. Canadian employers are required to accommodate the reasonable needs of religious employees in the workplace.

4. Women in the Workplace: The Hidden Battle

Throughout our history, women have adopted new roles from working as a housewife to entering the workplace and providing for their family or oneself. As women entered the workplace, we saw issues of sexual harassment, unequal pay and opportunity starting to emerge. These issues are still seen and frequently voiced today as women are continuously taking a stand for their rights. Unfortunately, there are many issues that go unnoticed that need to be addressed. Every day women have to prove that they are just as good or better than their counterparts and when they fail to do so they are labeled as weak, incompetent or just plain lazy.

3. Lack of Diversity in the Workplace Can Cause Stress Among Employees

The success of an organization in today’s competitive world depends upon how well it embraces the challenges of diversity and realizes its benefits. Employees from different backgrounds, ages and ethnicities bring their own set of experiences and world views, and are better able to provide a wider range of solutions to developing problems. Most of all, a lack of diversity has been linked to increased discrimination which in turn leads to elevated stress levels among employees. The National Center for Biotechnology Information note that discrimination due to immigrant status, legal status, skin tone or language can contribute to increased stress in individuals.

2. The Pros and Cons of Hiring Older Employees vs. Younger Employees

Ever thought you would one day be in a position where you would have the decision on your hands to make or break someone’s career? Well if you are, here is something that you might come across depending on the nature of your job. This article aims to analyze some of the main factors to consider while picking the right person for the job. At the very outset, I must make it clear that I am referring to older as in more experienced professionals and not just being ageist.

1. Workplace Issues and Solutions

There are a variety of workplace issues that both employers and employees encounter. Some of these issues are minor while other workplace issues are more significant and require frequent attention from employees for the workplace to function properly. While it is the responsibility of management to take steps to develop strategies to combat workplace issues, employees also have a responsibility to speak up when they recognize issues that contribute to or may eventually lead to problems.

This article was mostly contributed to and edited by J2DW volunteers!

Voices of our Nation

Attitudinal Barriers in the Workplace

Attitudinal barriers are the challenges, or barriers, experienced by people with disabilities in the workplace. Attitudinal accessibility refers to eliminating attitudinal barriers that discriminate against people with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers include thinking that people with disabilities are inferior or assuming that a disabled person with a speech impairment never understands you. Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively based on their race, age or disability. Canadian employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees. Employers are required to make every reasonable effort to accommodate an employee’s individual circumstances that relate to discrimination.

Discrimination can be decreased when there is awareness of the potential misconceptions or negative attitudes towards employees, including disabled persons, within the workplace. Employers must not discriminate on the basis of a disability or a perceived disability. Employers must make it clear that harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. Harassment must be investigated and corrected as soon as employers become aware of it. An effort must be made to eliminate the various types of discrimination, and the associated social stigmas, that can exist in workplaces.

Attitudinal barriers are the most basic barrier and contribute to other barriers. People may not be aware that difficulties in getting to or into places can limit a disabled person from participating in everyday life and common daily activities. People sometimes will categorize or stereotype disabled people while assuming their quality of life is poor or that disabled people are unhealthy because of their impairments. Some types of disabilities may be similar, but can pose different challenges or impairments for disabled people within the workplace. Employees should be aware of the individual needs of all of their employees to be able to maximize workplace productivity.

An inclusive workplace environment should be created where each employee is valued and respected. Every employee will bring various skills, strengths, and weaknesses to the workplace. For a workplace to be successful, employers must be aware of how to properly manage these skills, strengths, weaknesses, along with the individual needs of their employees. Attitudinal barriers are behaviours, perceptions, and assumptions that discriminate against people with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers are also ways of thinking or feeling resulting in behaviour that limits the potential of people with disabilities to be independent individuals. Attitudinal barriers usually lead to illegal discrimination which cannot be easily overcome.

To eliminate attitudinal barriers, the best solution is for employers and employees to familiarize themselves with employees living with a disability. Do not assume what employees or clients with disabilities can or cannot do. Members of a workplace should be trained to effectively interact and communicate with people with different types of disabilities. Employers must understand the types of accommodations for disabled people, some of which are low cost to the workplace. Being aware of attitudinal barriers allows the workplace to cooperatively develop strategies to overcome the barriers. Workplaces will be more successful when employers and employers are able to cooperatively work together as a cohesive unit in an inclusive workplace environment that encourages respect and an awareness of each employee’s individual needs.

Disability Barriers
Discrimination and Other Workplace Barriers
Overcoming Attitudinal Barriers
Solutions to Attitudinal Barriers

This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

Founder's Blog

The Heart of Election Day

The Heart of Election Day

Working for Elections Ontario

In Ontario we recently participated in the exercise of democracy by casting ballots for members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. From there, the leader of the party with the most members becomes Premier of Ontario. Thus, democracy functions once more.

It was rather late in the election period, about two weeks before election day, when I decided I wanted a one-day job, which was on election day, working for Elections Ontario.

On June 7th, 2018 Elections Ontario was Ontario’s largest employer.

Elections Ontario is an independent agency of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. However, the agency does have to follow all applicable laws with regards to employment and, in particular, in accessibility.

When I first called and spoke with the recruiter, she was excited. It was probably because she had one less person to find. Admittedly, Elections Ontario did a fantastic job advertising its open jobs for election day.

So, this recruiter and I talked for some time. It looked as if I was going to be a Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) in Oro-Medonte. This was driven by the fact that I both have a valid drivers license and a vehicle I can drive to the location.

However, when I revealed to the recruiter (whom I will not name,) that I was unable to help set up the polling location I would be working at the night before, due to medical requirements of a disability, the role of DRO was taken off the table.

No one mentioned to me about Elections Ontario’s “Workplace Accommodation Policy and Procedures” brochure, nor that there was a form (FO273) that I could file to ask for help. Does one expect the applicant to leap through all those hoops?

I do not know the training this recruiter had, but I imagine that it was similar to the training for my downgraded role as Information Assistant. (Jokingly referred to as Greeter.) So she must have read the brochure (FO277). It was mandatory.

Elections Ontario policy is to accommodate applicants and employees with disabilities who need workplace accommodations.

On June 7th, I arrived bright and early at my polling station, ready for the next 13 hours. The actual voting hours are 9 am – 9 pm. However, we had to be there an hour before for any final setup items. We also could not leave the premises at all during those times. Bathrooms were on site.

While I am frustrated that I did not get to carry out the DRO role, originally offered, I had a great day. I got to greet voters, help them with the process, and send them merrily on their way afterwards.
Poll Official - Elections Ontario

Since employment is short-term, individual accommodation plans will not be reviewed after the election is over.

I firmly believe that Elections Ontario has gone to great lengths to accommodate voters exercising their democratic right to vote. However, I do not believe that Elections Ontario has gone far enough to accommodate their very short term, one day employees, who just want to help out to ensure democracy prevails.

I think if I could talk directly to Greg Essensa, Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer, then I would make the following recommendations:

  • Make the brochure on Workplace Accommodation Policy and Procedures available online. (FO277) (In doing my research for this article I could not find this brochure on the Elections Ontario or the Ontario Government websites.)
  • Make the requisite forms available online. (FO273)
  • Train your Recruitment Team to make mention of the brochure (FO277) one of the first things they talk about, just like the greeters ask for accessibility assistance when they greet voters at the door.
  • Ensure all polling stations have facilities for storing medications needed during the day both in regular temperatures and those requiring refrigeration.
  • Make a plan for DRO’s that cannot set up the night before.
  • Internally review individual accommodation plans post-election to spot opportunities for improvement.
  • In the end, we all want democracy to prevail! So, let us give democracy a hand and accommodate those one-day employees.

    This article was written by J2DW CEO Peter V Tretter and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

    Founder's Blog

    Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

    A decent variety identifies with various societies, foundations, ages, sexual orientations, identities and different elements. It likewise identifies with how individuals see themselves and how they see others. Cultural variety in the work environment has turned into a key worry to pioneers and chiefs of associations today. Associations are crossing outskirts and mainland in the mission for more markets. Work movements are acquiring individuals from various races, foundations, sexual orientations and identities into the work environment. Enrollment masters are hunting down work ability all around. At this point, what are the ramifications of these to an association? How does these influence administrators? What are the principle things a director has to know in regards to variety in the work environment? We should think about some notable angles.

    To the employee: listed are some of the ways to respect the diversity in the workplace;

    We all have biases. This is a natural result of our life experience. Take a moment to write down what your biases are and ways in which you wouldn’t allow these biases to affect how you conduct yourself in the workplace.

    • Take a genuine interest in someone with a different background than your own. Make sure your conversions are deep rooted in a common ground that does not offend cultural sensibilities.

    • Bring together, diverse groups for invitation. Doing this will increase the pace and creativity involved with innovation. Companies that do not change and innovate will crumble and the diversity can be a company’s most valuable resources in this area.

    • Respect religious holidays. Most company’s respect Christian holidays, however, the workplace tends to have a variety of religions. Thus, all-important holidays should be respected of that particular religion.

    • Create interest in organizing a lunch with someone from a different background and try changing lunch tables to meet new people.

    To the Director: In the worldwide town, having decent variety is a reality and not simply administrative buildup. As a director, you have to comprehend, embrace and value cultural diversity. The director of a company will unquestionably have various groups in any case and the onus is on him/her to adjust their administrative abilities corresponding to this.

    It is prudent for human asset supervisors and enlistment specialists to think about assorted variety while distinguishing and pulling in ability.

    Cultural variety must be implanted into the way of life of the association. Your association’s way of life is produced after some time and contains the convictions, values, practices, states of mind and other basic suppositions shared by individuals. Envision a different work environment with its way of life genuinely skewed and doesn’t consider having a variety of diversity.

    As an administrator, you have to realize that having a decent variety in a working environment is a benefit. Numerous focal points gather from having a decent variety and your association can profit from this because cultural variety upgrades cooperative energy in a work environment. Cultural variety additionally enhances inspiration and motivation and these can bring about expanded efficiency, gainfulness and rate of profitability. It gives a decent stage to learning since it brings new points of view and methodologies, new authority styles, better basic leadership and so forth. The mix of various encounters, foundations and vocation ways can be a gift. This can be utilized to enhance productivity and viability of people and furthermore, groups. Item advancement groups for instance, can be multidisciplinary and multicultural for motivations behind having a decent variety.

    Presently, shouldn’t something be said about the drawback of having a decent cultural diversity? Work environment assorted variety additionally has its impediments and risks. Correspondence issues commonly emerge and these can be trying to your element’s activities. Isn’t this test regular with multinationals? Cultural diversity may likewise breed protection from change. Most times workers may likewise be enraptured along lines of decent variety. Past the substance and into the business world, complexities in business arrangements crosswise over societies and so on can emerge because of cultural variety.

    Associations can take the advantage of cultural diversity to enhance administrations of the association. When you lead business universally for instance, your client base is exceptionally different. The general public you work together in is various. Decent variety in this manner mirrors your client base and the general public overall. Wouldn’t you be able to then utilize your differing group to enhance administrations to the classified client?

    Presently, would you say you are setting adequate accentuation on work environment decent variety? Is your association very much situated to oversee work environment assorted variety? Thinking about all the above certainties, it is crucial that you do the needful. Comprehend cultural variety and make its best utilization, while limiting its negative effect on your company.

    Embrace diversity in your workplace and you will be on the way to a more fulfilling and productive organization. The world is a beautiful mosaic of differences and the workplace should be as well. Respecting your co-workers and employees is paramount to tapping the valuable diversity in your organization.


    Charlie Bentson King: Writer and producer of training ABC

    This article was edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Voices of our Nation

    Promoting Social Cohesion Through Diversity and Inclusion

    Social cohesion refers to the social factors that bond individuals at the community, national, or universal levels. It occurs through the building of positive social relationships.

    This involves the willingness of members of society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper and an accessible community with a barrier-free environment. One that does not limit anyone’s participation in everyday life.

    Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It includes an understanding that each individual is unique and recognizes the individual differences of people in a society.

    Social inclusion improves on the terms that individuals and groups take part in a society. A socially inclusive society is where people feel valued by others. Their differences are respected. Their basic needs are met, so that people can live in dignity within the society.

    Inclusion is a feeling of belonging, being treated fairly, and providing people with an equal opportunity to be successful. Social exclusion is a process where people are denied full access to various rights, opportunities, and resources that available to members of a different group in the society.
    Diversity and inclusion can promote social cohesion. Social cohesion a means to bond diverse groups of people in working toward a common goal for the improvement of the society to benefit the well-being of everyone.

    Social cohesion is when people live peaceful lives. When diversity is accepted in societies, they begin to be more productive innovators by approaching problems from different perspectives.
    Some of the benefits of social inclusion cohesion are people experiencing a sense of belonging in community with an increased level of acceptance, providing valuable societal roles to increase individual self-worth, and developing stronger social bonds between people from a wider range of diverse backgrounds.

    When people experience even some of these conditions in their life, they will more likely be happier and healthier. In non-inclusive societies, people are more likely to experience poor physical and mental health, loneliness, isolation, and lower self-esteem.

    Several people with various disabilities unnecessarily experience life in a worse way. Unfortunately, these people may not have gained a sense of presence in their community due to not having adequate access to the social activities to significantly enhance their wellbeing.

    People with disabilities may also lack opportunities to work, learn, and develop social relationships with others. Disabled people are sometimes not acknowledged in their community with their skills and unique perspective, where they are untapped or underutilized by society.

    Strategies should be developed to promote social cohesion through diversity and inclusion. When a society becomes invested in promoting social cohesion through diversity and inclusion, every person can benefit and societies can be more successful by utilizing the skills and abilities that each member of society has to offer.

    Diversity and Inclusion Aids Social Cohesion
    The Upside of Diversity and Inclusion
    Why Diversity?: Advocacy and Issues
    Why Social Inclusion?: Advocacy and Issues

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Scott Jacobsen.

    Voices of our Nation

    11 Tips on Respect & Inclusion in the Workplace

    It has become a lot easier since back in the day, to express gender and sexuality issues in the workplace. When one could not express a fundamental part of oneself, it tended to hamper the outflow of work. However, with that being said, it does not mean that it has been easy for our current generation. There are still problems that one faces at the workplace in the aspects of respect and inclusion. A ‘closed’ environment can significantly impact an individual’s involvement in the organization, potentially resulting in low staff morale, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and retention difficulties.

    When employees have been working together for a long time, it is likely that they become a tight-knit group and it can make it difficult for new employees to become part of that group. New employees aren’t aware of the group’s internal dynamics yet and can feel left out if everyone is calling out ‘Pepperoni’ at 4pm and you are the odd man out. Therefore, Human Resources departments have come up with techniques to help new employees or an existing employee who is not quite settling in yet to feel included at the workplace. Almost 45% of the employees who leave the workplace do so because of their seniors. That can be a large factor in deciding whether to stay with the company or not.

    Here are some Human Resources techniques to help new and existing employees:

    i) Open and Effective Communication – provide open communication channels and feedback. This optimizes the opportunity for discussion of issues related to inclusion and discrimination. Having complaint boxes or walk in policies with one’s supervisor would encourage individual’s to open up about the issues bothering them, which would in turn lead to employees feeling more comfortable
    ii) Political Differences – everyone has different opinions and they must feel comfortable sharing them with their colleagues, as long as they are work appropriate. This can help build bridges with people who may share similar opinions
    iii) Build Relationships – learn about the cultural backgrounds, lives and interests of employees outside of the workplace. Building relationships through increased understanding and trust helps to foster inclusion. (Who knows you may even find someone who you have a lot in common with and could help you move up the corporate ladder)
    iv) Get Involved – be creative, flexible and look for new opportunities to join events the company is having such as the annual company picnic
    v) Equal Opportunity – This is geared towards employers, as they have to ensure all employees have the equal opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities
    vi) Special Days and Events – it is important to recognize and acknowledge special days and events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations, etc
    vii) Create Intranet-based Multicultural Calendars – this helps avoid scheduling important meetings on major cultural holidays so that everyone feels respected and heard
    viii) Permit Flexible Schedules – this helps employees who observe religious practices can arrange their schedules around their beliefs. This ensures that the employees know that you respect their faith and also being accommodating
    ix) Acknowledgements of Faiths – there are many different faiths in a workplace and the employer needs to respect them. This does not mean employers have to throw parties at every religious holiday but acknowledging it and giving the leeway for a day off will go a long way in building rapport between the employee and employer
    x) Accommodating for Employees with Disabilities – for employees that are blind, in a wheelchair or have visual impairment, the employer needs to be accommodating. Have signs in Braille, audiocassettes, make the office accessible with a ramp, elevators, handicap washroom and parking spot
    xi) Mental Health – it is important for employees who are suffering from mental health issues to know that they can talk to someone and that they are not alienated. Keep communication doors open and ensure them that they are in a safe environment and provide them with people they can talk to if they need it.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Media releases

    J2DW Launches Titles and Pronouns for Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals

    Journey to Diversity Workplaces Launches Titles and Pronouns for Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals

    J2DW joins companies such as Royal Mail, the Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, and numerous others making this change.

    For Immediate Release

    BARRIE, ONTARIO, 10 OCTOBER 2017 – Journey to Diversity Workplaces (J2DW) is excited to announce the addition of new titles and pronouns to their online applications and databases for transgender and gender diverse individuals.

    J2DW’s goal is to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We respect differences ethically, morally, and legally. We want a different kind of workplace where diversity is championed and so is the worker. An organization’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and to realize the benefits of diversity.

    It is important that we respect and recognize individuals in our society in a way they wish to be addressed. By doing this, we promote out-of-the-box creativity and respect for those who explore their lives fully in a way that is right for them. We’re proud to take a stand on this.” said Peter V. Tretter, President & CEO of Journey to Diversity Workplaces.

    The board of J2DW green-lit the project over the summer and immediately went into beta testing. New titles available include Ind., Mre., Msr., Mx., Myr., Pr., Sai., and Ser. New pronouns available include Ne/Nem, They/Them, Ve/Ver, and Ze/Zir.

    Organizations such as Royal Mail, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Oxford City Council have introduced these titles since the start of 2017, and we believe J2DW is one of the first Canadian companies (for-profit or non-profit) to launch these options.

    Journey to Diversity Workplaces is a Barrie, Ontario based organization formed under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act in December 2013. Find out more about us at

    — 30 —


    Peter V. Tretter, President & CEO

    705-481-7784 ext 2


    Voices of our Nation

    Whitewashing Hollywood

    We all watch them, use them as forms of entertainment, and follow the news leading up and after them. But did you know that there is an entire strategy behind how movies and Hollywood pick their actors and actresses to skew the racial distribution?

    The term used to best describe this practice is “white washing” and can be defined as the entertainment industry’s attempt at making ethnic characters more appealing to the white, money-spending masses by making exotic characters less ethnic and more “white.” An example of a whitewash would be an Asian movie cast with half Asian actors and actresses instead of ethnically Chinese actors, even if the roles required the actors to be full Asian.

    Such whitewashing not only plays a role in direct consequences for the viewers of the film, it also plays an important role in propagating its effects into society’s realms. Numerous times, Middle Eastern, or people of colour, have been asked to play roles as criminals or terrorists in films. Statistically, the majority of terrorists around the world are not Middle Eastern and criminals are not always people of colour.

    In an article recollecting 7 Middle Eastern actors and their experiences with such discrimination, one actor says “…I had an epiphany. I called my agent: ‘Hey! Don’t send me out on these terrorist parts anymore. I’ll be open for anything else, but not the terrorist stuff.’ “After that, she never called. [She used to call] three or four times a week.” (GQ online magazine).

    The statistical evidence by the FBI is that 94% of terrorist attacks in the USA from 1985 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. Putting that into perspective, an American terrorist suspect is over nine times likely to be not Middle Eastern than Middle Eastern. According to the same report, there have been more Jewish acts of terrorism than Muslim, but when was the last time you saw a Jew being cast as a terrorist in a movie versus a Muslim Middle Eastern?

    A recent example of such colour whitewashing has been the casting of Scarlett Johansson, a blonde white actress in a Hollywood remake of classic Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell. The argument used by the movie producers and directors for such Asian white-washing is the argument of green colour, the amount of money the movie would gross if they would not hire a white actress.

    The argument of money should not be valid anymore as the world progresses towards eradicating racism. An increasing number people are becoming accepting of people of a different colour and will definitely pay to see a movie even if the lead character is non-white. Many scholars have partially blamed the entertainment industry for the racism that exists in the world today and it only makes sense for the same industry to solve the problem.

    Another common argument Hollywood uses for casting non-minorities in their movies is simply that there exists no talent in the minorities. However, this argument does not hold much water. In fact, Hollywood has recently developed a strong reputation for casting relatively modest actors and actresses in blockbuster films. One look at the Marvel Studios model shows at the time of their initial casting actors and actresses such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, and Scarlet Johansson were not guaranteed box office commodities. So apart from it being Marvel Studios, and most of them having the first name “Chris,” why were these actors considered safe risks while Asian actors aren’t given the same luxury? The only other variable is that they are white. Hollywood will risk box-office uncertainty on Caucasian actors, while not risking box-office uncertianty with Asian actors, but not all is lost with whitewashing. An actor, Ed Skrein, exited a movie once he figured out that the role was whitewashed. It seems like the more awareness we generate about this, the more likely the problem will go away.

    This article was contributed by volunteer blogger & co-op student Mohammadali Saleh.

    Voices of our Nation

    The Truth About Tech World Inclusivity In 3 Minutes

    The Tech World and Inclusivity

    Over the last few days, there has been quite a bit of buzz in the news about the Node.js community and it’s recent failed vote to get rid of a member of the project’s technical steering committee (TSC). The member, Rod Vagg had posted some controversial statements on Twitter about inclusivity in tech. I won’t go into all of the details here, but feel free to look it all up if you’re interested.

    Reading about this event, and others like it, got me thinking about my own ideas on inclusivity in a tech environment. Let me start off by saying, I’m not perfect, and rarely have all the answers, but I would like to share a couple of personal experiences that hopefully can illustrate some ways we can be more conscious of inclusivity in our own environments. For me, the key is to realize that, no matter how inclusive we think we are, there are areas where we can improve. Accepting that we need to change the way we think and feel about the world, and how inclusive we are in our daily interactions, is a powerful first step.

    Changing the way we talk changes the way we think

    I think our end goal, when it comes to inclusivity, is to change the way we think. For example, we can read about it in a book, or online, and figure out all the right things to say, without actually believing or internalizing any of it. But actually changing our mindset can be extremely challenging.

    While I was working in California several years ago, I had an experience that helped me see the power in changing the way we think about being inclusive, and what we can do to change it. There were three guys who I considered close friends. We would hang out socially outside of work, and often go to lunch together. However, we had a co-worker, a female employee, who we could not tolerate. Now, we were all pretty nice, and were friendly to her in person. But on our lunch breaks, and outside of work, we would constantly complain about all the things we didn’t like about this employee. This private bad-mouthing went on for some time actually.

    At some point, the four of us came to the realization that our attitude and behavior towards this employee, even in our private interactions, was unacceptable. So we made a pact with each other. If, at any point, any one of us said anything negative about that employee, or another employee for that matter, the other three of us would have permission to punch the other person in the arm as hard as we could. I know, I know, a typical ‘guy’ way to solve problems, right?

    The point though, is that we often think that inclusivity is a conversation only about how we treat other people in public settings. But the truth is, that inclusivity starts at home, in our private thoughts and conversations that are removed from the public sphere. Changing the way we interact, and our thoughts about being inclusive begins with changing our private thoughts and behaviors.

    Now, with my experience in California, an amazing thing happened. It probably took a couple of weeks before all four of us had finally learned our lesson, and stopped all of the negativity outside of work. But the unexpected result was that we were happier at work as well. Our morale had lifted, and we actually all really ended up liking this employee. Our conversations inside and outside of the office changed to a more positive tone, and the way we felt while we were at work improved, and by default, our behavior at work became much more inclusive to all of the employees.

    Get out of the comfort zone

    My second experience comes from a conversation with my wife. I’m white, and my wife is multi-racial, and so naturally our life experiences, and thoughts about both race and inclusion are different. My wife pointed out to me one time that each of us have built in biases and prejudices. Of course my natural reaction was one of defensiveness. “Of course I don’t. I like everybody. I don’t have any biases.” So, she gave me a challenge. Throughout your day, just be conscious of who you talk to, and who you interact with. Are they all different genders and races? Or, are they most often people who look pretty much like you?

    So I took the challenge and really thought about it as I interacted with people throughout my day. Sure enough, she was right. Almost 90% of the people I talked to and associated with were people who looked just like me. And, it wasn’t that I was being consciously un-inclusive, but I was just naturally more comfortable around people who looked like me. It was somewhat of a shocking realization.

    At that point, my wife gave me another challenge, which was to just go out of your comfort zone and talk to people who are different than you. Now, as someone who considers himself mildly introverted, that can sometimes be difficult. However, since then, I do consciously make an effort to be more inclusive to everyone. Not just the people who look just like me.

    It doesn’t have to be any grand gesture. Sometimes, for me, it’s simply saying “hi” to the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. And that’s the point of inclusivity. It doesn’t have to be any huge changes in our life all at once. But if we do try to make baby steps in changing how we think and how we act, eventually it will make us better people.

    In conclusion

    These are just a few experiences I’ve had, which have shaped my thoughts about inclusivity. Being conscious of it, both in the tech world, and elsewhere is invaluable. There’s definitely no ‘right way’ to be more inclusive, but the main point is to realize we can do better, and to find ways we can improve our own inclusiveness in the workplace and outside the workplace.

    This article was submitted to us by author Ethan Jarrell.
    The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Journey to Diversity Workplaces