Let's talk Inclusion A candid chat for International Women's Day

In a world where diversity is our strength, International Women's Day (IWD) serves as a poignant reminder of the journey towards equality and inclusion.

This year, the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ resonates deeply, urging us to reflect on what it truly means to foster a culture of belonging and empowerment for all women, especially those who face intersectional challenges.

Inclusion isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a transformative force that dismantles barriers, celebrates differences, and amplifies voices that have long been marginalized. At its core, being inclusive means recognizing and embracing the richness of diversity in all its forms – race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and more.

For women of colour, the pursuit of inclusion is often compounded by the intersection of race and gender, leading to unique experiences and obstacles. Despite progress, systemic inequalities persist, manifesting in disparities in opportunities, representation, and recognition. The reality of women of colour is one marked by resilience in the face of adversity, as they navigate spaces where their voices are often silenced or side-lined.

White allyship plays a crucial role in fostering inclusion and amplifying the voices of women of colour. It involves actively listening, educating oneself on issues of race and intersectionality, and using one’s privilege to advocate for equity and justice. Allyship is not a passive stance but a commitment to challenging biases, confronting privilege, and standing in solidarity with marginalized communities.

To truly be inclusive, we must confront the uncomfortable truths of systemic racism and discrimination that continue to permeate our societies. We must acknowledge the privilege that comes with being part of the dominant group and actively work to dismantle the structures that perpetuate inequality. Inclusion requires us to step outside our comfort zones, engage in difficult conversations, and confront our own biases and prejudices.

Creating inclusive spaces involves more than just lip service; it requires intentional action and tangible change. It means actively seeking out diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of belonging where everyone feels valued and respected, and dismantling barriers that hinder full participation and representation.

Inclusion isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; it requires us to recognize and celebrate the unique experiences and identities that make each individual valuable. It means creating environments where women of colour feel empowered to bring their whole selves to the table, free from fear of judgment or discrimination.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let us recommit ourselves to the principles of inclusion and equality. Let us amplify the voices of women of colour, celebrate their achievements, and acknowledge the barriers they continue to face. Let us stand together as allies, united in our commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

The journey towards inclusion may be challenging, but it is also deeply rewarding. It is a journey of growth, empathy, and understanding – a journey that holds the promise of a brighter, more inclusive future for generations to come.

IWD may be a single celebration that appears in our calendars once a year, but to really live it is to be the change agents who challenge the status quo, uplift the voices of the marginalized, and build a world where all women can thrive, regardless of race, ethnicity, or background. Only when this all comes together, is it then we can create a future where inclusion isn’t just a goal, but a lived reality for all.

This is a guest blog which contains the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the IoD.

About the author

Saj Zafar

CEO & Founder, LeadHERship Academy

Saj is a  Psychologist, ex Prison Governor, award-winning Mindset & Performance Coach, inspirational speaker and D&I Ambassador for IoD Kent.

With over 20 years experience working with senior leaders, officials, and directors from public and private sectors, including government, academia, SME, and non-profits.

Four years ago she founded LeadHERship Academy™ and Institute for Change.

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