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How Companies Create an Inclusive Culture through Storytelling
Campfire – Employer Branding Tools 10 September 2020

How Companies Create an Inclusive Culture through Storytelling

Coming out is always one of those things. In my private life, the risk is manageable: my friends are all very open and many are queer themselves. They don’t care that I date women. In the workplace, however, things look very different. How colleagues would react to an outing is difficult to assess in advance. Maybe you will be rejected, ideally nothing will change at all. I quickly realized that Mashup Communications has an inclusive, open corporate culture on a daily basis and that I didn’t have to pretend – the best-case scenario.

Whether people who are somehow different, for example because they are black, queer or of a non-Christian faith, apply to a company at all is up to the company itself. Each company decides for itself how inclusive its culture is. To do this, however, she has to take on the battle against the so-called master narratives. Whether you’re already super open or still on your way there, there’s no way around storytelling on the journey to an inclusive corporate culture.

Racism and Discrimination: Why Master Narratives put Obstacles in our Way

Stories are incredibly powerful – in both a good and a bad sense. While some stories bring us closer together, others drive a wedge between us. Racism, for example, began as a story of white superiority over People of Color and Black people. The privileges that whites enjoy today are at their expense and are the result of centuries of oppression. Discrimination against LGBT people begins with the Bible, which says that homosexuality is a sin. Because only a minority belong to this community and heteronormativity permeates every facet of our society, LGBT people are often marginalized because of their differences. The same applies, for example, to non-Christian people in Western Europe who experience discrimination.

The reason for this in all cases: the underlying master narrative (also known as the metanarrative). This refers to a dominant narrative perspective on the past that prevails for a long time – i.e. the perspective of white superiority, heterosexuality, Christianity. When it comes to telling their own stories, many people unconsciously orient themselves to the master narrative and thereby reinforce it further. Making the master narrative more inclusive is the ultimate goal – for individuals, companies and ultimately society as a whole

Inclusive vs. Diverse: Isn’t that the Same Thing Anyway?

The two terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are often not used very distinctly from one another, but there is a small but subtle difference. An inclusive corporate culture makes a mix of different people possible. Through proactive behavior, companies create an environment that includes all people and treats them equally. The result is a diverse team made up of people with different values, ethnicities, sexual orientations and the like.

Inclusion is a prerequisite for diversity, which is why companies must proactively opt for the former. Proverbs do not exist for nothing. “Birds of a feather flock together” often also applies to companies, as they always tend to hire similar people. They would benefit greatly from individuals who are different from them and bring new perspectives. If a company wants to live an inclusive culture, it must make a conscious decision to do so and proactively invest in a more diverse master narrative within its own operations – the perfect breeding ground for inclusion and diversity.

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People with different perspectives exchange ideas at fireside chats.

The Right Stories for an Inclusive Corporate Culture

By consciously creating opportunities that strengthen the sense of community, companies can make their culture (more) inclusive. A variety of different formats are available to them: Workshops on the topic of structural racism, pride panels where LGBT people and their relatives share their experiences of coming out and fireside chats that encourage exchange between members of different religions. On these occasions, very different people, who are all part of the same company, have the opportunity to share their individual stories and experiences. Employees realize that their differences do not divide them, but unite them – and the company’s master narrative becomes more open.

For this concept to work, companies must design these rounds as safe spaces, i.e. as places free of discrimination. Only if they live their internal culture more inclusively can companies credibly communicate their new narrative to the outside world in the next step. For example, by letting real employees have their say with their personal stories on their blog or social media accounts, they show applicants that they are definitely welcome. In this case, too, “Birds of a feather flock together” applies, except that in this case it means “Divers flock together”.

You can find out what our own learnings in the process towards more inclusion look like in this experience report about a year of working with Inklupreneur.

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