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Who we see and who we don’t

For today’s flavour of Secret Sauce, we’re going to talk about visibility in the workplace — who has it, who doesn’t, and who needs it. The modern office has come a long way since the days of workspaces filled with white men and a few white women fetching the executives coffee. We’ve worked hard to diversify these spaces and honour the people who’ve excelled in their careers even while facing discrimination, breaking various glass ceilings for the next generation. But while we can look at 21st century workplaces and see a greater mix of Black and brown faces, men and women more equal, there are still a lot of barriers, just perhaps not as obvious. In our previous Secret Sauce post, we talked about accommodations for people with physical disabilities but there are also employees everywhere right now who wrestle with invisible disabilities like chronic pain or the frustration of being neuro-atypical and misunderstood. Greater visibility does not inherently translate to greater support or success but being invisible is definitely a huge barrier.

We’ve also talked here before about code switching and how just because Black people are now visible in every industry, that doesn’t always mean they can truly be themselves at work or be represented in the executive suites. Our skin colour makes us visible but are we truly seen? We now see white women fairly well represented in the workplace but again, not always at executive levels, nor in pay, and they have to walk tightropes in their communication styles and even in their fashion that men do not. For many managers now, even something as simple as workplace attire is demanding greater flexibility and greater thought.

March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, which began in 2009 as a response to the November 20th International Trans Day of Remembrance that memorializes the too-many people who’ve been lost to us through violence or suicide, the overwhelming majority of them trans women of colour. It’s vital to recognize and end this but Michigan trans advocate Rachel Crandall felt it was also necessary for trans and non-binary people to be celebrated in life so March 31 has become that day, especially urgent as various US states now push legislation targeting trans kids and their parents.

But even as affirming cisgender people work to better understand and support our trans colleagues, there are always stumbles. In 2018, The University of Florida Career Centre, among others, published suggestions for “gender neutral professional attire” but the general reaction was not positive. “‘Gender neutral’ shouldn’t mean just forcing everyone into clothing cut for men,” wrote historian Dr. Tiffany Wayne on Twitter, speaking for the many people who have been told in various ways that their hair or dress sense isn’t “professional.” Who decides what that means? Just because office spaces no longer look like they did in the 1960s doesn’t mean there isn’t still a pressure to have employees dress and speak like the cast of MAD MEN. True diversity is more than skin deep. At Breakfast Culture, we work with companies to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces, where workers feel a greater sense of belonging and a freedom to excel. We can guid e you through our five-phase Diversity & Inclusion audit process that fosters greater communication within your organization for better results, better engagement, and perhaps better dress codes. Happy to jump on a call to discuss how Breakfast Culture can help with your organizational diversity and inclusion journey. Schedule a 30-minute meeting today: Let's Break Some Eggs! – Jefferson Darrell, Founder and CEO

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