Both big words. Huge.
Professionally speaking, these two words are some of my biggest areas of interest currently. At Shazam, we are incredibly lucky to be tremendously diverse in many different ways, but what we never want to be is complacent. We want to make sure that we are an attractive employer to as wide an audience as possible. Which means I read. A lot. And research. A lot.
But now is not the time for me to tell you all what we have done and how we have done it from a Shazam standpoint. Now is the time for me to share with you all a little of the inspiration that has brought my current focus to this area.
When we think of diversity, we think of the more obvious things like race, gender, religion etc. Clearly these are hugely important areas, but what of the little things? What of the differences we find in one another and react to, often without being conscious of it? A great book about this (plus other brilliant stuff on diversity and inclusion) is the Loudest Duck by Laura A Liswood.
Sometimes the smallest little nuances of things we see in other people; clothes, accents, appearance etc. and our unconscious reaction to them can be the most significant of all.
So to really start looking at what inclusion truly means, we have to start to assess what our reactions to things are and call them out to ourselves, then learn to appreciate and celebrate those differences.
We all have biases; namely sets of data that have been hardwired into us in many different ways from birth. What we need to do to move past those is to become aware of what those things are, clock the feelings when we have them and work to change our behaviour over time.
I’m not suggesting that you (or I) would ever be deliberately mean to someone, but I’m afraid to say that we all treat people a little differently based on those biases, we just do it subconsciously much of the time. Those tiny little nuances are the things that add up to becoming counter-productive when seeking to have a culture of inclusivity; whether within your organisation or in life in general.
Most of these biases are borne out of an (often unjustifiable) fear of the unknown. We become defensive because we refuse to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and to take that leap of faith into whatever comes next.
So I am on a crusade to challenge what my unconscious perception of other people might be, and in turn, make my world a more inclusive one. To step forward, and not to step back. I need to be able to fully audit the way that I interact and move through the world before I can truly assess the way we exist as an organisation at Shazam.
My first step on this journey happened quite unexpectedly, when I recently found myself on a crowded beach in Ibiza.
As crazy as it sounds, it’s been a few years since I sat on a busy beach. I have viewed a few from a safe vantage point, but I have felt no desire to join the crowd. Quite the opposite!
I’m not sure I can even tell you when this shift happened, this desire to be far from the madding crowds. I’ve felt far more at home either on a quiet beach where myself and my companions are the only inhabitants, or next to a pool on a villa somewhere. This hasn’t just been my happy place in ‘holiday life’, I’ve started to do far fewer things involving big groups of people in general. There’s a very big (or little), reason for that; standing at 5″1.5 tall (yes tall!), means crowds can be a little much at the best of times.
Anyway; back to the beach. In September you have to chase the sun a little in Ibiza, so chase it we did to a sunny beach to the West of the island. When we arrived I looked at the mass of bodies on the sand and thought; ‘nope’. But I didn’t allow myself to leave this time (the call of my inner Icarus was too strong haha). My friend and I found a small patch of vacant sand and sat down.
What was really quite incredible, was that within a few minutes of being there I found myself exhaling; and I mean REALLY exhaling. I let go. I looked around me and saw that the ‘mass of bodies’ were actually just beautifully individual people, with beautifully individual lives.
I watched them for some time, reading the energy underneath the veneers. Some were content, some calm, some sad, some worried, but all alive, living and breathing. People just like me. They weren’t aware of my observation, but watch them I did, and as I did so, I felt my connection to all of them deepen.
Before I knew it I was completed relaxed, lying on my back looking up at the sky, with people walking past my little camp in every direction. And as they walked around my head, instead of feeling vulnerable, I felt completely safe, supported and peaceful. I spent three afternoons on that beach, and each one was an abundant blessing – and I felt a little silly at my previous reluctance to join such crowds before.
So even though we definitely couldn’t guarantee the sunshine on this trip, we could absolutely guarantee was the opportunity to connect with other humans by simply just being. No need for words or judgement. And that was a beautiful thing indeed.
So it turns out that sometimes you just have to lie down amongst a bunch of people to see what’s up. That might not work so well in London (granted), but perhaps it’s worth considering conducting a little audit on yourself and looking at your own biases and what forms they might take. Where do you hold yourself back instead of stepping forward?
And as for me? Well, I’m going to continue to work on this connectedness whilst I weave my way through life in London. I move forward into the coming weeks of discovery with an openness and a focus on inclusivity, and a promise to keep myself in check in terms of the way I interact with people in the world; regardless of their choice of newspaper or the perfume they are wearing.