While exploring the topic, I started to analyze my professional career and incidents where I had experienced exclusion. In 2016, I was afforded the opportunity to attend several fire service conferences. As usual, all the conferences were great and provided excellent learning opportunities.
However, I noticed that on the days I dressed in business attire, it was harder to engage in casual conversations with other participants. Most people were cordial but not as welcoming. On the days I wore my uniform, displaying my fire chief title, conversations were three times more engaging and I was invited to several VIP events.
After attending the conferences, I had to ask myself, "How can you have diversity inclusion when not everyone is included?"
Our profession is improving in its emphasis of diversity, but the message of inclusion is steadily declining. When you attend a conference that’s filled with your peers and you still feel excluded, there’s definitely a need to educate each other on the importance of inclusiveness.
I don’t feel anyone intentionally tried to exclude me while I was dressed in business attire; it’s inevitable that there’s a correlation between inclusiveness and rank, which means there’s a need to readdress inclusion in the fire service.
Principles for improving inclusion within the fire service include these three ideas:
- Diversity doesn’t automatically equate to inclusion.
- We must manage by objectives, not by opinions.
- The fire-tone philosophy should rule the day.
Diversity Doesn’t Automatically Equate to Inclusion
Diversity inclusion means including everyone—regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. The principle is that all employees of an organization can and should feel inclusively relevant to that organization.
In the last few years, the fire service has pushed harder for diversity inclusion. It’s inherently subjective to implicate that there’s an ideological equivalence between diversity and inclusion. You can have a diverse workplace but still have diverse employees not included.
It’s apparent that diversity is becoming more of a numbers games, and our diverse employees are being excluded.
As a profession, we have to understand the importance of both concepts and find ways to improve diversity while creating an inclusive workplace.
We Must Manage by Objectives, Not by Opinions
Personal opinions are valuable, but they often create adversity. As managers, we must leave our personal opinions in the car when we arrive at work. Managing by objectives affords us an opportunity for inclusion to be the ideology of the workplace.
The Fire-Tone Philosophy Should Rule the Day
When the tone goes off, it’s one of the most prolific demonstrations of professional camaraderie and inclusiveness. Everyone gets in the truck together, responds on the call together and handles the incident together.
However, once the call is completed and the tone is silent, everyone reverts back to exclusivity. If we were to transform our minds to live as if the tone was constantly alerting, maybe we could improve our professional inclusiveness and eliminate the exclusiveness.
We must remember that you can’t have inclusion if not everyone is included. I don’t feel my particular incidents were a direct result of diversity inclusion, but an indirect result of not understanding inclusivity. For me, it was inclusiveness and rank, but for others, it’s often inclusion or exclusion based on ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
At the end of the day, we must remember a valuable lesson we learned growing up: Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated.