Jen O’Ryan from Double Tall discussed diversity and inclusion as it relates to the LGBTQ community. Double Tall provides service as a consulting firm for strategy, design, and implementation. Jen also placed her knowledge in her book “Inclusive AF: A Field Guide for ‘Accidental’ Diversity Experts”, which explains how to cultivate a more welcoming workplace.
When first working with companies, Jen revealed that most approach Double Tall for consulting on unconscious bias. Jen shared that people tend to get stuck in their own worldview. Companies start the program, and realize the there is much more to the picture than what they thought. Jen explained that expanding the worldview of someone can be “a little mind blowing.” She further expressed that she is careful not to package LGBTQ+ experiences as a monolith, but as many experiences of different people in the community with similar aspects. It’s the type of learning that once you “see it”, you can’t “un-see it”.
Before getting into consulting, Jen spent her time volunteering with Mpowerment, where she connected with LGBTQ+ youth. She saw the value of peer-mentorship that helped youth to choose healthier decisions in the way they lived their experiences. Here, she would also be exposed to the the stories behind the youth, such as discrimination coming from people in their lives and the institutionalized discrimination creating barriers. These scenarios continue into adulthood, which leads to Jen explaining what these scenarios look like in the workplace.
An environment, like a workplace, can thrive if willing to take multiple perspectives into account. Unhealthy environments tend to be ones where different perspectives are shut down, whereas a healthier environment is open to a variety of perspectives. Being open to different perspectives is not solely about challenging each other to think differently. In reality, different perspectives allow people to gain knowledge of what else exists, like expanding the worldview.
“I use the example of curbs all the time; so you’ve got the curbs, and then you’ve got the little slope for people in a wheelchair with mobility issues. Unless you’ve had mobility issues, or been in a wheelchair, or seen it, you would never think to have that curb.”— Jen O’Ryan
Jen explained her thoughts on how to create a new norm in the way we interact with each other. People can support each other by speaking up for one another, as well as by becoming more aware of ourselves. She helped explain what can happen if people try to balance conformity when their identity doesn’t reflect the majority, or the environment built around their experiences.
In life, you’re working with other people, and acknowledging them for who they are really opens up human connections. It allows us to meet people at the level of who they are as a person. Jen understands that acknowledgment as a “human need”; a form of authenticity that says “I see you for who you are. I see you as you are.”