Diversity and inclusion is something we are hearing about with increasing frequency. That more people and companies are becoming aware of, and even championing a diverse workforce is a great step forward from the situation where, not that many years ago, it was usually either ‘Not a thing’ or, at best an afterthought.
Simply put, this is an effort to ensure people from varying backgrounds and groups are accepted, welcomed and treated equally with those from other backgrounds. Some of these differences may be obvious eg. age, race, gender, physical attributes and some less obvious like personality or educational background. Whilst there is an endless list of potential differences, inclusion is not about focusing on what makes each of us different from each other, but about including and empowering everyone irrespective of any differences.
Being a diverse person, inclusion is really important to me. In days gone by where society felt a need to apply labels for every point of difference, I would have had many labels applied. What with marital status, education, gender, gender identity, orientation, religious views, health and mental health, it is safe to say that I belong to groups of people that have regularly experienced a whole spectrum of negative exclusive behaviour, from being treated less favourably than others, all the way through physical and mental abuse to torture and murder. This makes me extremely nervous meeting new people. Whilst many people may experience some degree of concern around acceptance or rejection when meeting new people, not so many face concerns about a risk to their mental or physical welfare. I know people in similar circumstances who experience some, or all, of these on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve been fortunate to not experience the more serious issues in any workplace environment, although I have been treated unfairly in at least one company in the past.
Whilst my previous employers may have been supportive or inclusive to varying degrees, it is hard to find a company that has taken it to heart as much as my current company does. Diversity is there, right on our homepage. We do not tip a hat to it or pay lip service to it, we live it. Each day we look to the things that unite us and support each other instead of looking for differences or trying to make people belong to some ‘other’ group in order to treat them differently or less favourably.
Some months ago I met my team in real life for the first time. I’ve been working with these people for months. Being a fully remote company, we have people all around the globe working from home or whatever location suits them best and this means we don’t sit down in the same physical space often. This required an international flight, which is itself a source of stress for most people, let alone those that have diverse backgrounds, followed by meeting all these new people and I can honestly say I have never met a more supportive and accepting group of people. I left that meetup looking forward to the next one. This is something I have seen again and again across the company.
I am so happy to be able to say that here at Automattic, I’m not afraid to say “I’m me, I’m not the same as everyone else”, but I know that really doesn’t matter or change how I am treated by my colleagues or the company. I am welcomed, respected and treated the same as everyone else.