Are we there yet?

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written by Mary Finn, Founder of Connect4work.ie

We have come a long way – ‘ a lot done, more to do’…. No doubt many Irish readers of a certain age will recognize this line from some years back but I have been reflecting on it from a different perspective[JG1] . 

Different – a word, that no matter where in the world we live or come from, we have at some stage used it to describe 2020 and possibly 2021 to date. 

Different – it’s not what we had planned, expected, or wanted – it’s not better, not necessarily worse overall – just different.  We have all had to work differently….  We have structured our days differently, swapped traffic for home schooling, coffee meetings for webinars, and nights out with friends for nights in with family.  We have all had to work differently, work in different places, learn different ways to cope, survive and thrive.

Some people might see the word different as something that challenges us, it’s too hard, it will take too long, it may be too expensive, it’s not what we are used to, I don’t have the time for it, I can’t understand it – and so I’m not willing to try.  Yes, different is often some or all of these things, however… what if I asked you to think differently about difference?  Could you see it as a positive?  In many ways we’ve almost become intolerant of difference – preferring instead to lean into a more homogenous existence.  There is certainly comfort in sameness and safety in the status quo.  However, humans are meant to evolve and evolution means movement, adaptation, growth and change.

Yes, different is often some or all of these things, however… what if I asked you to think differently about difference?  Could you see it as a positive? 

I see different ways of doing things as my way of learning, an opportunity to try an alternative way – potentially a faster, better, cheaper, environmentally friendly, more fun, safer way! An opportunity to learn a new skill, join a different network, see a new perspective, and meet new people.  In my own experience, I see changes in me brought about by the diversity of people in my network.  Through listening to their thoughts and experiences, my own thoughts are being diversified, broadening my mind, encouraging it to be more open to … difference.

In business, there has been much discussion addressing differences under the guise of Diversity and Inclusion (“D&I”).  The D&I ‘revolution’ has brought about significant, and welcome, positive change for people who don’t quite fit the sameness mould.  Humans with disabilities, mental health challenges and neuro diversities. Humans who grew up in different cultures, religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds.  Humans who feel differently, love differently and look differently, and others to whom I apologize if your difference is not mentioned. 

The D&I agenda encourages debate to make our world more open and inclusive to difference, not just in conversation but in all aspects of life, recreation, sport, education and work – why would we fear it?  It has enriched our lives and I believe we are the better for it.  We have indeed come a long way but there is still much to be done.  Are we all equal? Not yet.  Are we there yet? No, not yet.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge.  This year, we are encouraged to challenge our own unconscious biases around equality.  We are on the cusp of a mass return to work after harsh and restrictive periods of isolation in lockdown.  We have an opportunity to come back differently, and better.  As we start to prepare for this inevitable return to the workplace – I urge each of you to be open to difference, to things being different, and to doing things differently.   Open and honest discussion about the lives we want to lead will create more inclusive work practices, enabling equal opportunities for wider communities and individuals.  Rather than fight against what we don’t want – I choose to rethink what could be done differently for a more equal, and equitable future for all.

If we were to get there, with all things equal – would they be equitable? 

My #ChosetoChallenge for this year will be to pursue equity, where systemic barriers are the challenges to a fully inclusive and equal society which need to be removed.  Would you agree that it is society who has dis-abled and excluded people through lack of understanding, stigma, biases, inaccessible building design, fear of disclosure and asking for help to name but a few?

Let’s flip 2021, rebuild our recovery with empathy, compassion and understanding for a fellow human being.  We are all human beings after all – it’s what make us equal, and also what makes us different. 

Are we there yet?  #GettingThere.

With thanks to Mary Finn, Connect4Work


Ireland Together

Ireland Together Team

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