Juliet Vos - What inclusion means to me
Juliet Vos (she/her) - HR Shared Services Manager, shares her thoughts on inclusion and what this means for her.
I feel like part of being a leader in any business is to look at things from other people’s perspectives – so when inclusion conversations started to happen in Screwfix, I felt really passionate about being involved. I wanted to understand more about how comfortable people feel to be themselves at Screwfix and I wanted to support my team in learning more too.
My own personal story means this is something I truly care about. On paper I am a white privileged straight female who was born in England, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t things about me that make me different. My family came from Holland to England during the 2nd World War, my Grandad was orphaned and his remaining family were persecuted during the war by the Nazis. His brother went missing for years in a work camp until the war ended, they assumed he was dead.
Therefore, I’ve always been grateful for our freedom, the privileges we have and have been taught to respect other people’s differences. My mother is registered disabled with the sometimes invisible disability of Parkinson’s. She was diagnosed at aged 45 whilst I was just a teenager. The judgements made by others that we have witnessed have been appalling and upsetting at times. I know I am lucky in comparison to others in terms of the treatment they have faced.
However, my point is that we are all different.
A number of things have dawned on me since starting my own journey to understand inclusion better.
Don’t assume and take people at face value about if they are ‘diverse’ or if they have experienced prejudice.
To build on that, it’s important to make the effort to get to know your colleagues properly and build trust. We have many layers that are not always visible to others. Someone may not be of a protected characteristic in your opinion - but they may have a dual heritage daughter, a transitioning friend or a disabled parent they care for, on top of that inclusion is not just about your ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion – it's about feeling you can be yourself.
Be curious – if you don’t understand something then ask. People are usually more than happy to explain and help as long as you are respectful and thoughtful in how you ask questions. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore. If you are really stuck, Google it!
As a leader I have met with my team and asked what they would like to know more about. I’ve also been open about my personal knowledge levels and together we have come up with ideas on how to learn as a team. Here are a few things we have done.
· We’ve invited Yeovil Pride to speak at our team meeting to talk about the meaning of Pride and how we can support the LGBTQ+ community.
· We’ve discussed how we can support each other, our friends, and our family on how we can be better allies to those who feel underrepresented
· We’ve met and spoken to US Inclusion Ambassadors and our own team to share experiences around being neurodiverse, part of the LGBTQ+ community and mental and physical health conditions.
· We’ve invited speakers to help us understand the meaning of disability, the perception of disability and neurodiverse conditions.
· We’ve watched videos, followed social media suggestions, and recommended TV programmes and films to educate ourselves around ethnicity, religion and gender stereotypes.
· We’ve spent time discussing the People pillar, ‘A place I can be myself’ and if we feel we can be our true selves at work.
· Used #startswithaname and pronouns on our email signatures to help others pronounce our names correctly and respectfully.
· I’ve shared my personal experiences of how I try to live and breathe that ethos by bringing my authentic self to work – pink hair included!
Ultimately, we are always learning and sometimes we get it wrong. I think it’s important as leaders in this business we can show our vulnerability and be open about who we are. Then we can support others in helping them feel they can be themselves.
You don’t have to be an expert and I am certainly not one! I hope this gives you a few ideas on how we can educate and learn more about each other on our journey to be more inclusive.