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Diversity Trainers Need To Be Real


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Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London, Publisher the Inclusion Quarterly

Diversity trainers are just like any other people: they have biases. If we are true to the work, we recognize that we need to be constantly evolving as individuals and as trainers. The process involves examining our own biases and trying to understand and reduce/eliminate them; a process which can be very humbling and worthy of sharing with our trainees. Although it makes us vulnerable, we become genuine facilitators.

Preachy diversity trainers are a turn-off for me. In my 20 years in the field of race relations, and diversity I think the worst sessions I have ever attended by trainers were ones in which they tried to make their trainees feel bad about the attitudes that they had, as if that is supposed to help them change! With cries of “Don’t be racist” or “Don’t be sexist”, these types of trainers do a lot of talking, but rarely about themselves and about their own journey when it comes to diversity and inclusion. These scripted trainers don’t appear genuine to me, having created an environment where trainees feel vulnerable if they have dissenting views.

A dynamic diversity trainer will put themselves in the trainee’s shoes, recognizing that trainees might be scared and uncomfortable with working with or serving a group of people they never had to before. There is a lot on the line. Here is an opportunity to share your story and to be authentic. They want to hear from you that it wasn’t always so easy for you either, but that it can be done. And sometimes you may even come to enjoy working in a diverse environment.

Growing up in London, Ontario which has always been considered very WASPY, my experience with diversity was primarily living and going to school with different children of European decent. I attended a Catholic school and I was never exposed to religious debates.

As kids, when we wanted to see exotic looking (non-Whites), we would dash to the school library and take a peak at the National Geographic magazines and marvel and giggle at the differences we saw.

While this may seem insensitive, this was the reality of growing up in a city where most of the people look pretty much like me. My elementary school had one black family and there were no Asians or aboriginal people. In a sea of predominately Italian kids, I was the minority. Later on, when I went to university, I met a Jew for the first time and he did not have a beard or a black hat! I also met a brilliant woman from the Chippewa reserve. That was a different experience hearing her perspective on the First Contact which was diametrically opposite to what I had learned in school.

It was a different kind of experience in which all of my beliefs were challenged for the first time and not always in the most polite way either. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, I soon came to value the ideas of others and gain friends that I would have never have made if I had not branched out into a secular school with students who had different backgrounds.

I reflect on these moments and share them with my trainees.

If we consider that many of our participants may feel uncomfortable asking certain questions that are integral to their work, then it is incumbent upon us to put them on the table and take chances. Anticipate the questions and address the elephant in the room. Again this means that you need to take risks as a trainer by presenting topics that your participants deal with on a daily basis but are afraid that they will be labelled by other trainees if they put those questions forward. Otherwise they may never ask them, and they leave the training feeling dissatisfied and maybe even cheated.

It means putting yourself out there and bringing in genuine examples and abandoning the political correctness. Your trainees will thank you for it and will be surprised that you took the chance – something many other trainers are not willing to do.

By sharing true stories of your experiences confronting bias and engaging trainees with real-life challenging and relevant examples, you will be on your way to creating a memorable, engaging and educational learning experience.

 

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Diversity Training Shouldn’t Be Comfortable


Evelina Silveira, President, Published Author, Public Speaker and Diversity Trainer

I remember hearing a clergyman one day talking about marriage and its ups and downs. He spoke about couples who argue commenting that: “If you don’t occasionally argue or disagree, you can’t possibly be speaking about anything important”.

The same can be said about diversity training. Your beliefs and values should be challenged and called into question. This is part of the learning process. Diversity training is just as much about personal growth as it is about gaining knowledge of others. If the trainer, has not aroused any uncomfortable emotions in you, there is a good chance that the following may have happened:

– You weren’t paying attention
– They stuck with “safe” topics.

Trainers who stick with “safe topics” do themselves and their trainees a disservice. Workplace diversity is very complicated. It is not easy for us to integrate many different types of people and expect them to get along. When you do not discuss the unpopular and controversial situations you are cheating your participants of the opportunity to learn how to deal with them and to begin the discussion. You make it seem like it should be so easy to do and why are they having so many problems?

The reality for the most part, trainers want to be liked. It makes it easier to get more business. But diversity training is not like other types of training. Some of it is based on our personal values and beliefs and that can be difficult to balance within a training session. Each person who comes to training will have a unique experience with diversity whether it be good or bad. A good trainer allows the bad to come through as well, and works with it rather than denounces it.

Next time you are hiring a diversity trainer, ask them whether they are willing to handle some of the really contentious workplace diversity issues that have come my way. For example, how would they feel about using the following experiences that have been presented to me in my work:

– A straight man who is harassed by a gay man
– A blind woman who bullies her immigrant co-worker because of his accent
– A First Nations woman who accuses you of discrimination because she does not meet the workplace standards
– An immigrant woman who wants to take you to the Ontario Human Rights Commission because you fired her for preaching over the phone.
– A General Manager who consistently makes racist and sexist remarks.

It is only by working through these real-life situations as described above will we make progress in how to deal with them. We need to abandon our political correctness that makes some groups as angels and others as devils. Diversity trainers should challenge themselves to use real-life workplace situations instead of labeling some groups as sacrosanct or untouchable. Creating unrealistic expectations of certain groups is an insult to the groups themselves and to the participants’ intelligence.

Next time, if you leave a diversity training session provoked or uncomfortable that might be a good thing. You should be taken out of your comfort zone with challenging workplace examples that can be used to create balanced and fair solutions for each situation.

Diversity at Work does not use political correctness as an excuse for excluding certain workplace diversity topics. Call us today for how we can help you get closer to your goal of inclusion. 519-659-4777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 519-659-4777 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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