Interview with Helen Phalzer. (4m)
What I learned during this class, how it applied to the Seattle experience, and how it will benefit me in the future. (7m)
I truly learned a lot during this experience from my peers, professors, the professionals we spoke to, and our assigned course content. In this reflection, I will be discussing a few of the most notable parts of my experience and the most valuable knowledge I acquired that will benefit me and my future greatly.
First and foremost, I learned a lot about the importance and strength of communication. I only recently declared my minor in communication, so I didn’t have the same knowledge as many of the communication majors in my class. Due to this, I learned a lot about professional and strategic communication just by listening to my peers and participating in discussions. We all shared ideas with each other, had informative conversations, introduced new concepts and ways of thinking to each other, give businesses the chance to challenge their pre-existing values by asking them hard-hitting questions, provided these businesses with suggestions on ways to improve, and created an open, supportive, and honest space for everyone to express themselves in. Our group bonded so quickly because of how we communicated with each other and shared our values as well as our boundaries from the very beginning. Moreover, the discussions we held with organizations were always casual and friendly, inviting everyone to express their thoughts and bounce ideas off each other. Just by having a simple open discussion, I believe we truly made an impact on the people we spoke to from each organization. In addition, as a result of our communication efforts, we made valuable connections helping us expand our social and business networks.
Next, I learned a lot about the importance and challenges surrounding inclusivity in various businesses. I recognized the difficulty of breaking free from the formulaic structure for businesses everywhere, suited specifically for cis-gender, heterosexual white men. Why is it so difficult or a “reach” for businesses to cater to an entire population and not just a small percentage of it? The norms and standards we witness in businesses are rooted in a discriminative and exclusionary society. The idea of getting hair products suited for all types of hair in hotel bathrooms was so new to such a large business working in hospitality. We know why, but it still makes us ponder and puts things into perspective. I witnessed first-hand how businesses are doing what they can to be as accommodating as possible to everyone, yet still have so much work to do. Even the most inclusive organizations must continue to learn and adapt to the rapid evolution of society. There are many small yet impactful ways to create an inclusive space, many of which I learned on this trip such as providing various hair care products or playing more diverse music in establishments. The fact that I had never thought of these details before means I have never felt excluded in organizations and have always had options available for me as a white person. As a result, I am now more conscious about the establishments I visit and can provide new suggestions for inclusivity at my current and future jobs.
One main reason why many organizations aren’t as inclusive as they should be is due to the diversity, or lack thereof, in leadership positions. This point was brought up by Helen Phalzer in her interview and it is something that I have recognized as well. As she stated, non-marginalized individuals cannot fully comprehend the needs of all individuals and aren’t really able to think outside of their own perspective. Change and action are best accomplished when those with the power of influence and gatekeeping reflect the diversity of their employees, customers, and society as a whole.
After reflecting on my experience, there are a couple of things I would do differently. To begin, I would be more conscious about where I was spending my money. I shopped and ate at several establishments during my time in Seattle without taking the time to learn about their efforts for inclusivity and diversity. Seeing as our work was to analyze the organizational culture in the PNW, I should have made an effort to do so at every business I visited. Additionally, I should have actively searched for small businesses in the area to support instead of the regular large chains that I am used to shopping at. I did do this to an extent; however, I could have made more of an effort. Another thing I would do differently is to prepare more for our discussions in advance. With more preparation, I have an easier time contributing to conversations and being an active listener at the same time. At times I felt that I truly had nothing to say, as much as I tried to think of something. It was a battle between trying to listen to everything being said and attempting to formulate a good question to ask. Finally, when discussing with organizations about their inclusion efforts, I would put more focus on what they are doing for the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the focus of this class being around LGBTQ+ organizational culture, I felt that we didn’t explore that as much as I would have liked.
In conclusion, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I will remember my time in Seattle, the amazing people I met, and the valuable work we did forever. I am more motivated than ever to play my role and advocate for difference in the communities I’m a part of. I learned how much I value inclusivity in organizations and now want to make it one of my focuses in my career as an industrial and organizational psychologist. I will also undoubtedly be visiting Seattle again soon and am even strongly considering moving there in the future.
Dear Professor L.
Thank you, Professor L., for creating this class, teaching us, encouraging us to be proud of who we are and what we bring to the table, showing us it's possible to make a difference in our communities as individuals, and for simply being an amazing human being. Your work as a professor is extremely valuable and seeing how much you give back to communities is inspiring. Teachers can have such a significant impact on a student's life and you have truly, positively impacted mine, which I will be forever grateful for.