Let’s face it.
While we may see the value of difference, and hold fast the principles of inclusion in our societies and workplaces, we are drawn to sameness. We want to come together with the like-minded. It bolsters us. It makes us feel stronger.
Last week I participated in a salon at Toronto’s Koffler Gallery. The event, called Pushing Back, gathered together a panel of women who attended the Women’s March on Washington in January to discuss how this experience was influencing our work.
The panel guests included academics, actors, a playwright, a visual artist, a comedy writer and myself. While I have a background in the theatre, my work now is focused on workplace communication and women’s leadership. We had many different reasons why we attended the march, and our lingering responses ranged from dismay to elation. But what struck me most was how many women talked about the strength they drew from coming together – the solidarity – with other like-minded men and women, and how this shared experience provided fuel to their desire to make change; in their workplaces, in their communities and in the world.
Oxford dictionary defines solidarity as: “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group”. I’ve been reflecting how this need for solidarity is something that I see often in the employee resources groups (ERGs) that I speak to; groups of people are coming together in the workplace with common interests and goals to share ideas, wrestle with problems, gain new skills and draw strength from each other. It’s clear to me that these groups are an important space for the like-minded to find community – and drive change, and a recent piece in Forbes looks at some of the key ways that these ERG’s wield clout.
While the march gave me strength, it also gave me pause. There was criticism of the demographics of the crowd, and the fact that it was predominantly white. As someone who works to bridge difference through communication, I was left wondering where and how dialogue begins in this increasingly polarized world. Essential to find community with the like-minded yes, but how do we engage in conversation with those whose views really differ?
When it comes to making change, in your organization or in the world, where do you draw strength? Is it an employee resource group? Professional associations? Book club? And where are you finding the space to bridge the differences?
If you have a comment, I’d sure love to hear it.
And who knows, I may be coming to an event near you. To learn more about what’s coming up, click here…