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4 Steps to Creating Diverse and Inclusive Spaces

There is as much diversity among women as there is in all of humanity. While women can share many experiences in common, we all bring different perspectives, lived experiences, identities, and beliefs to the table. As we prepare to come together as a collective force to be reckoned with at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), here are four ways we can better establish diverse spaces that allow each attendee to feel valued and empowered.

1. Come ready to learn.

When we come to a space ready to learn, we have already acknowledged that we do not hold the complete story on any subject matter. While our personal experiences may inform our view on a topic, being ready to learn from others opens us to accept multiple perspectives and expands our understanding of an issue. Conversations that can be challenging or even divisive at times are much more productive when we are open to learning something new.

2. Acknowledge the privileges you carry.

In a society filled with inequities, many of us are allotted advantages where others are not. It might be that we are able-bodied, identify as Christian, are heterosexual, are white, have access to education, or have U.S. citizenship. When we acknowledge the privileges we have when entering a space or conversation (and note that it’s possible to have privilege in some areas or some spaces and not in others), we can be more open to learning from those who have experienced discrimination or oppression in ways that we have not.

3. Actively listen.

Engaging in active listening demonstrates that we respect the person who is talking. In being an active listener we suspend judgement on what is being said and focus our attention on the person who is saying it. While we may choose to disagree with something that is being said, when we have actively listened to someone else’s perspective or feel that we have been actively listened to, we are much more likely to engage in respectful dialogue and build stronger connections with one another.

4. Use inclusive language.

Words matter. Being aware of the diversity of thought, experiences, and identities in our environment can help us pause and reflect on the words we choose when speaking with others. Whether we are talking about someone’s gender identity, racial or ethnic background, or geographic location, inclusive language is integral to making people feel heard, empowered, and included.

By valuing diversity and inclusion as central components to our time together at NCCWSL, we can provide each other with the respect and empowerment that we all so deeply deserve.

Want more leadership tips? For more than 30 years, NCCWSL has provided a transformative experience for the next generation of leaders. Join us from May 30 through June 2, 2018.

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This blog was written by NCCWSL steering committee member Jeannine Heynes.

By:    March 28, 2018