The two of us get mistaken for each other more often than we should.
Yes, we have similar stories (tl;dr: we are Indian women in marketing, who immigrated to Canada via a few years spent in Oman, where we met). But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just lazy.
Our experiences, specifically around our respective Canadian identities, are distinct (tune into episode 1 for more banter on that).
But let’s break this phenomenon of mistaken identity down. Detecting patterns is an important part of how we learn and make decisions. In the process of learning, our brains create mental short cuts to problem solve and make choices quickly and efficiently. While rule-of-thumb strategies enable us to fast-track decision-making, they can also create or perpetuate bias.
But when we, in the spirit of unlearning, look past shortcuts and patterns and see people for who they are – individually – that’s when we really let that person be their whole self.
How do you do that? We can’t think of a better way than tapping into your inner-child curiosity. Asking questions without starting to guess or assume the answer is the best way to start. And when you hear a response, resist the urge to compare it to something else you have heard before. Because as soon as you start saying your comparisons out loud, you run the risk of minimizing someone’s lived experience or belief system before you even have the chance to know them.
Marketing is all about connection, between brands and people, among people and with the institutions around us. And in a growingly diverse world, if you don’t invest in getting to know the people around you, you run the risk of being out of touch, quickly.
But learning can be hard. Change is even harder. So we’ve got to pace ourselves and check-in with those around us. Doing the work to create inclusion and equity is a marathon, not a sprint. But 1% change, consistently, is still growth in the right direction.
So let’s do this. Mistakes and all. It will make us all better friends, leaders and humans.
Since ABCDEI is all about learning and unlearning, this is how we have unpacked the concepts we shared on our first episode into simple and actionable ideas:
- Dig a little deeper. When you start to think of people in groups as being homogenous, it’s a cue to dig a little deeper. The cost to participate in conversations about equity and inclusion isn’t too high. Just do it. Ask questions. Make yourself vulnerable. Be open to learning – or teaching – without judgement.
- If you see something, say something. Silence isn’t golden when it comes to the hard work around creating inclusion and equity. Whether you have privilege – in fact, especially if you have any level of privilege – you cannot afford to turn a blind eye when you see people from underrepresented groups be overlooked, discriminated against or shut out of inner circles, just for being who they are. Silence is complicity.
- Don’t make one person represent a whole community. When it comes to our own needs, we often crowdsource opinions from a group. Commit to doing the same with any situation where there is unequal representation across groups. And for goodness’ sake, don’t put the weight of representation on one person’s shoulders. Neither of us can or should speak for all Indians, all women or even all South Asian immigrant women in marketing in Canada. (We’re same, same but different).
If you have found yourself wanting to unlearn but wondering where to even begin, or if you have a guest idea on the topic, get in touch. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in similarity and dissimilarity,
Rohini + Susan