A couple months ago, I had someone ask me an interesting question. Despite all our differences, what’s the key to building unity and connection? This question was in regard to the teams within Franklin Energy, but I think the answer is more broadly applicable.
After giving it some thought, I identified three main pillars. These happen to be the pillars I use to guide my own life—as a mother, a wife, a friend, and a leader. I feel they are worth sharing as the world at large could always use more unity and connection.
Authenticity. Authenticity is so important because being your authentic self creates trust. When you stop comparing yourself to others and instead embrace the differences you bring to the table, it can make your team dynamic. We need a wide variety of skill sets, thought patterns, and personalities to develop the most innovative ideas. Of course, this starts with creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone feels free to be their most authentic self.
Empathy.When someone shows empathy, they are seeking to understand others before being understood. Whether or not we acknowledge it, each of us is always battling unconscious bias; empathy is the only fighting chance we have in challenging that mindset. By upsetting the status quo and reaching out to understand others at a deeper level, we demonstrate a willingness to think outside the norm and learn something new. This directly correlates with fostering the welcoming environment I mentioned earlier.
Curiosity.Being curious helps us learn more about different people and cultures—and embrace those differences. When we are curious, we combat the mindset of judging people around us; instead, we seek to learn about their differences and build collaboration. People are usually open to answering questions about their culture, beliefs, backgrounds, and more when the person asking the question is genuinely curious and looking to learn. This fosters a sense of empathy and allows someone to be a more authentic version of themselves.
As an immigrant and a woman, I have often found myself in situations where I am the only one who looks like me. I know what it feels like to not be included, which is why I have always been passionate about empowering women in STEM. But my daughter recently pointed out to me that highlighting one group of people—whether that’s women, immigrants, or any other minority group—can be exclusionary in its own right. Instead, we need to work to create an environment where everyone feels not only welcome to participate but experiences a true sense of belonging.
I once heard someone explain it like this: Diversity is where everybody is invited to the party. Equity means that everybody gets to contribute to the playlist. Inclusion means that everybody has an opportunity to dance.
So, whether it’s as the leader of a company, a team, a club, or a family, I hope these three pillars serve you well. And if you’re interested in diving deeper into our DEI&B practices, learn more here.