I like to say our founder, JW Windland was ahead of his time. He knew instinctively about the impact of creating bridges between people, years before the Black Lives Matter movement made Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives part of our everyday conversations.
I think he’d be particularly proud of the way Encounter’s reach has expanded in the last few years and the new steps we are taking to encourage religious literacy. Recently I was honoured to become an Associate at the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) and I am looking forward to supplementing Encounter’s work and reaching new audiences as I offer workshops and consulting services to some of Canada’s largest and most forward thinking organizations.
Later this month I will be offering a CCDI webinar Religious Inclusion: a starting point for the workplace. As I was developing the content for this new audience it struck me that we all need to start somewhere – even larger organizations with dedicated HR teams or Diversity and Inclusion specialists. Religious literacy is a leading edge topic for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. While there has been lots of progress around recognizing the impacts of race or ability in our workplace policies, religion can often be left out of these conversations. Opening conversations around religion can feel particularly tentative, in part because it is deeply personal and in part because so many of us are aware of our own knowledge gaps. We are reluctant to say something inconsiderate or even offensive, and so we often don’t say anything at all. Ultimately the lack of conversations doesn’t serve us well, but I’ve been heartened to see that many organizations are becoming more comfortable having open but difficult conversations about race. I hope that carries over to conversations about religion and it’s my goal to continue JW’s work in this area.
Workshops, like the program I am doing for CCDI, and the conversations they open, are becoming more important for businesses and organizations. There are high expectations that organizations get their DEI initiatives right as people are increasingly taking an organization’s stance on key issues into consideration when making buying and business decisions. Our DEI standards continue to evolve as we grow in our own awareness and leading companies know that education, awareness, and sensitivity needs to be integrated across all functions from HR to marketing to customer service.
In the upcoming CCDI workshop we’ll start with a discussion about where we are now – why religious minorities are reluctant to speak up at work and how that influences everything from productivity to job attachment. We’ll talk a bit about how our Western perception of religion can distort our understanding of religions and unintentionally create an unwelcoming environment. And then we’ll cover some practical things organizations can do right now from reviewing policies to assessing culture to create a more religiously literate and welcoming environment for their employees.
If you are already part of the CCDI family, I ‘d love to see you at the session.
If not and you are interested in this content for your own organization or association, drop me a note. I’d be happy to offer a customized version of this session for organizations or businesses.