If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito- African Proverb
As Inclusion consultants Selena Rezvani and Stacey A. Gordon highlighted in their report, there has been focus on diversity metrics like business cases, workforce demographics, diversity hiring, retention, and promotion rates for equity deserving folks. But are DEI initiatives like training working? Are they fostering change and inclusion in the workplace? What role does storytelling play in building inclusive workplaces? Whose story gets told? What do leaders and employees have to do when relying on storytelling as a DEI tool? These and many more were the questions answered at our Quarterly EDIN Meet up on Thursday, August 25, 2022.
Story telling has been a form of communication used in a lot of our communities. In the session, our speaker, Jonah Ssenyange delved into what role story telling plays in building inclusive workplaces, whose stories are told, and what considerations should be made to include storytelling as an effective DEI tool.
Jonah, sharing from his own experience emphasised the importance of sharing our stories as authentically as possible. “Storytelling is an opportunity to learn from other people, to initiate behavioural change towards dismantling oppressive culture in the workplace”. He stressed that as Black people, we need to share our experiences. “Share how it made you feel, share the mistakes you’ve made. Be honest”. In addition, listening to other people’s stories piques our interest in the well-being of others by triggering our own emotions and enables us to view the world from another person’s perspective.
Using storytelling as a DEI tool, a leader must create space for it and encourage employees to share their stories by affirming the stories heard, actively listening to what is being said, and appreciating people for sharing. “Many people are walking around with great experiences that others can learn from, but they never share them because they feel like their stories are not powerful enough.”
One of the participants, reflecting on the session, said we deny others from learning from our experiences when we refuse to share them, “what we do not realise is, no matter how ‘insignificant’ our stories may seem to us, there’s someone who would benefit and learn from such experiences”.
Jonah Ssenyange is a career learner passionate about promoting principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a means of challenging structural and societal norms. He is currently a Diversity & Inclusion Facilitator and Placemaker (Recruiter) at Placemaking 4G, where he’s responsible for facilitating client-facing workshops around topics related to DEI and works with clients to create equitable environments where folks can do their best work. He is a Certified Human Resources Professional and has completed a Certificate program in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace from George Brown College. He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree specializing in Accounting from the University of Cape Town. Additionally, he volunteers as a Program Coordinator with the Black Mentorship Inc. supporting the empowerment of black professionals. In his spare time, Jonah enjoys hiking, dancing, singing karaoke and spending time with friends.