National Inclusion Week 2020 - What inclusion means to me: Dr John Fernandes
29th September 2020
As part of National Inclusion Week (28 September to 2 October 2020), and in line with the recently established Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, BASES will be sharing stories from the EDI Committee Members on what inclusion means to them, to help raise awareness about Inclusion in the workplace.
National Inclusion Week 2020:
What does inclusion mean to me?
The textbook definition of inclusion will typically cover the extent to which individuals feel included, welcomed, and valued within a group. Other more extensive definitions might refer to individual’s ability to express their true selves. You would think that this would be commonplace, but the reality is far from that.
Growing up playing golf, I knew from a young age that I was different. Did I feel included, welcomed and valued within my sport? Certainly not. Now, I was born and raised in the same country as my peers and competitors, but the issue for many was that my skin colour, by way of my heritage, was too dark for them. On several occasions competitors and competition staff would think I was a caddy. There couldn’t possibly be a brown male competing (despite the fact that Tiger Woods was on his record world number 1 streak at this point). Oh yeah, I conformed to all the rules and social norms of a golfer, but I still wasn’t included, welcomed or valued. Did I have to self-censor my true self to makes things easier for me? A hundred times yes.
Why am I telling you this? Well, dealing with this throughout my youth shaped my world view. For me, inclusion means seeing someone that’s ‘different’ and saying, “this person deserves to have their needs met, to have their access to the same opportunities and to be treated the same”.More so, inclusion is about believing that each person’s differences can positively contribute to that group. It should drive us to make a group, workplace or society better for others and for ourselves.We are all deserving of our right to express ourselves and to be treated equally.
So, the reality for me is that each individual, irrespective of any protected characteristics, is important. I am important. You are important.
Dr John Fernandes Member, BASES Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Hartpury University