By Lindsay Marcaccio
Kim Clark, diversity, equity and inclusion communications consultant, has long since been an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in communications. In December, she spoke to a group of communicators from Calgary and Edmonton about the importance of DEI. For Clark, “DEI is not just the responsibility of HR – it’s the responsibility of everyone because it impacts everyone.” She’s working to help companies understand how to build a DEI strategy that isn’t just lip service, and to awaken communicators to their full potential in creating change.
Creating a DEI strategy is about ensuring everyone is seen, heard and valued. Before any strategy is developed, a company needs to assess if their employees feel seen, heard and valued. You have to know where you are starting from before you can determine the steps to take you where you want to go. “If a company wants the DEI result, then DEI has to be a part of the process,” stated Clark.
As communications professionals we have the power to reinforce status quo, or to create change through language. “Language is the medium through which attitudes and behaviour can be influenced,” said Clark. Left unchecked, our implicit biases can lead us to choose language, tone and images which can create unintentionally discriminating messages. To demonstrate the point, Clark showed several images from a company’s employment webpage – unintentionally, they had reinforced stereotypes through image selection.
The question, what to do when faced with someone who claims DEI is a fad that will fade away, was raised during the Q&A session. Clark answered perfectly, “The safety of our colleagues, friends and family, and the human rights of someone are not trends.” When confronted with this question, she advised responding with compassion as it is likely that this perspective is coming from a place of insecurity, and is a defense mechanism to the fear of change and of not being able to adapt. Above all else, it’s from a perspective of privilege.
Clark left us with several key take-aways:
- We must start with challenging our own biases
- Always ask ourselves when evaluating our work, “What voices are missing? How can I do this better so people feel welcome and able to be who they are?”
- Create a space that is safe for people to share their feelings, thoughts and experiences because when we say nothing out of fear of saying the wrong thing, we are complicit
- Learn, learn, learn – never stop learning, and be curious about things that trigger you
- Differences aren’t the problem, how we polarize around differences is the problem
It goes a long way to remember that in the end DEI is about people and all any of us want is to feel seen, heard and valued. As communicators we can drive DEI progress forward in our organizations; starting with adding your preferred pronouns to your email signatures and company profiles. The road to DEI is a journey, and the journey is so worth it.
Kim Clark’s experience covers being a documentary filmmaker, teacher, writer, and speaker focusing on conscious communications. She held in-house leadership roles at KLA, PayPal, GoDaddy and GitHub running employee communication teams. She works with companies on diversity and inclusion communications and strategies, is a partner at the talent journey innovation firm Employera, a consultant for Ragan Communications, and teaches at San Jose State University. She’s also working on her first book, The Conscious Communicator.