We've all been excluded and made to feel less-than. And, we've all had someone stick up for us and make us feel like we belong. We've all had opportunities to step out of our comfort zone and be an ally for people who need our support. Culture doesn't happen to us; we create culture.
In today's Culture Spotlight, Charlotte W. shares stories of being excluded at university, what it's like to feel included as a new mum, and how conscious inclusion and allyship lead to better business outcomes here at Symantec.
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Please share an experience from your personal or professional life when you were excluded. How did that affect you?
When I was eighteen, I was fortunate enough to apply for and be accepted to a prestigious university in the south of England to undertake my undergraduate degree. I had grown up in the north of England in a working-class town and was excited to start my new chapter. When I arrived at university, I was one of three ‘northerners’ in a cohort of 200. One new student remarked that I came from ‘the common part’ of England. I immediately felt excluded, as though I was perceived to not be deserving of the place I had been granted at the university. I'm the type who likes to prove people wrong, so I excelled in my course and joined some of the top sports teams at the university. Very quickly I established why I deserved to be there, and I made it very clear that where you come from does not dictate where you will go.
Please share an experience when you were included, but noticed that someone else was left out. How did that affect you?
When I had my son, I joined a mother’s group – a group of sleep-deprived young mums who came together to ask the ‘is this normal?’ question about everything to do with having a child for the first time. One particular new mum in the group was Chinese, and English was her second language. She found it hard to keep up with the conversations. As a few of the mothers in the group started organizing coffee dates and morning park meet ups, I saw that she was being left out. I realized that part of our nature is to seek in others the ‘likeness’ of ourselves, and that to be truly inclusive, we need to go out of our way. One particular mum decided to create a group in WhatsApp so that all the 'meet up' invitations would go to everyone. The more we used this group, the more we got to know one another and realized that while the language was a minor barrier, we all had the same experiences.
Where you come from does not dictate where you will go.
What role does allyship play in creating a more inclusive culture at Symantec?
For me, allyship is intentionally recognizing the similarities we have despite being uniquely different. Additionally, allyship means purposefully recognizing those who may be different than us so that we create a sense of kinship in whatever community we are in. This is especially important in the workplace where there are so many constructs in place – such as our title, function, and seniority, as well as the physical workspace – that emphasize our differences. When we all can remember that we are all multifaceted human beings, we can bring wonderful dimensions to the workplace.
What motivates you to work towards an inclusive culture at Symantec?
One thing I know for sure is that when people don't have a sense of belonging and don't feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, you will not produce the best results, even with the most talented, diverse, and enthusiastic workforce. Creating an environment where individuals can thrive is intrinsically tied to their sense of safety and belonging – their sense of being included. As a senior leader in Symantec, it is my responsibility to be a role model by showing others what it means to be inclusive and create an inclusive culture.
The Culture Spotlight series illuminates what culture means to us as individuals so we can collectively create the culture that supports us all.
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