THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATING A SPACE FOR INCLUSION
In a world of technology, we can attend virtual courses free or for a fee. We can sit in virtual spaces with people we have never physically met but admired from afar. Since March 2020, there has been a deliberate effort to create virtual spaces for meetings, conferences, training courses, and distance learning. Still, I ask the question, "Has there been a deliberate effort to create a space for inclusion?” The lack of opportunity to gather in a face-to-face format due to the current health crisis is not a valid excuse. Inclusion efforts, whether it is in person or via the use of technology, take work, personal energy, and planning. Creating a space for inclusion is so much more than just hosting a group discussion to share experiences. While the group discussions are encouraged, there needs to be more, and there must be more. Creating a space for an inclusive climate means everyone must be willing to be vulnerable, ask questions and reflect on our level of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills, and relationship building. Although organizations may have policies that support inclusion efforts, real work does not begin until team members within that organization understand the critical role that they play in creating an inclusive space for the entire team. Being deliberate about creating a space for inclusion builds stronger teams and creates positive experiences for all organizational members. We can create an inclusive space that allows all of us to support the mission and bring our whole selves to the organization to show support for all events that celebrate the human experience. These events should not be limited to the special observances highlighted by public law or executive order; expand these events to become opportunities to share specific human experiences with our teammates and learn and grow together. There are options for virtual activities that build inclusion and understanding while confronting those stereotypes and biases that are detrimental to our teams' cohesion. Creating a space for inclusion means emphasizing building an emotionally intelligent workforce as we do in creating a technically savvy workforce. I wanted to share an activity titled “I am but I am not” that can be done virtually, found here: https://www.usaswimming.org/docs/default-source/diversity-inclusion/resource-guides/stereotype-and-stereotype-threat.pdf Activities such as these help build the bridge of inclusivity and foster connectedness among the team. These activities will create an environment that encourages and supports sharing the human experience. Understanding and respecting those experiences become the norm, and all members feel valued, and retention rates rise.