How do you feel about diversity and inclusion? What do you think when you hear someone talk about female empowerment? Are you eager to jump into the conversation, or do you feel nervous that you’re going to say the wrong thing and risk causing insult?
It’s tempting to steer away from these issues in the belief that they do not directly affect us, but the truth is that they impact us all. We all need to get involved.
It’s a massive issue to tackle, but Female Empowerment Specialist Lucienne Shakir, has an extraordinary personal brand that brings it to life and makes it accessible. You can hear our full conversation on the Interviews with Experts podcast.
Understanding the big picture
Through Write Business Results and the wider entrepreneurial community, I’m in regular contact with many kind, intelligent, sensitive and caring men. On a conscious level, these men would never want to discriminate against any other person, but many of them recognise that as a result of their social conditioning it might happen.
It’s widely acknowledged that men traditionally hold positions of power which gives them the potential to support the development of a more diverse and inclusive culture.
I was eager to find out from Lucienne about how her business helps open up the conversation in a way that specifically enables men to become allies to women in business (without fear of saying the wrong thing!).
How men can become powerful allies
Lucienne: “We have a responsibility to make these topics accessible. We need to know the questions people have and what it is that they want to know. When we make people wrong and point the finger of blame there are a lot of fingers pointing back at us. It’s okay to say the ‘wrong thing’ if you are asking for help and educating yourself more on the topic.
If people are willing to challenge their unconscious bias we need to help create the space for that so they don’t hide away from the conversation.”
How you and your business can get involved
American entrepreneur and author Danny Meyer said that “Communication is at the root of all business strengths – and weaknesses”, historically the lack of communication around female empowerment has been a weakness, but now with thought leaders like Lucienne leading the way that landscape is changing.
Lucienne: “It’s about being open to working through conflict and addressing culture. There is no right or wrong other than it’s not ok to be unkind. Everyone needs to be honest about what they do and don’t understand. If team members can’t ask those questions in the work environment they are going to close off and make assumptions. Everybody needs to be open to this dialogue.”
While this is not a men versus women (or race or any other factor) issue, it’s vital that straight white men get involved because many of the existing systems and structures have historically been set up to support them, while limiting opportunities for everybody else.
How to redress the balance of power
Lucienne: “The Western world is very much constructed by white male power. We see a lot of men in corporate structures who hold the purse strings; whoever is in control of the money is in control of the decisions and has the power. For a long time women have been denied the power to make change. When you have wealth and power you’re unstoppable, but if you are stripped of wealth and power and all you have is belief you have a massive hill to climb.
There are many organisations that are ahead of the curve and are proactive at bringing women into positions of power but there are also laggards. It’s changing slowly, and when men are willing to get involved and become white male allies we can create an even greater impact. We need to pull together to make a shift.”
Studies have shown that a lack of diversity and inclusion negatively affects everybody, and it makes no economic sense; organisations that have a diverse board of directors make more profit, and as long as there is a culture of inclusion they have better working environments.
How to make challenging topics more accessible
In addition to Lucienne’s passion and knowledge on female empowerment and inclusion I admire her ability to bring it to life and create content that makes diversity and inclusion a warm topic people want to get involved in.
Her branding incorporates floral images; it’s soft and strong enough to invite people to come closer.
Lucienne: “I know my personal and professional values inside and out. I know my north star. When it comes to my profession everything is encompassed around love and hope. If we can’t feel hope we have nothing left.
My three main values around my business are possibility, dignity and empowerment. If I create anything that doesn’t give people hope, share love or empower them I don’t use it. If I feel like a rant I take a deep breath and pause; me being frustrated isn’t going to help anyone. That’s my strategy!”
If you’d love support to inject passion and purpose into your personal brand get in touch; Write Business Results can support you to develop blogs, podcasts and books so that you can share your message with the right people and make a bigger impact.