Finnish Design Shop strives to be a store that is always open, for everyone. With Nordic values at its core, the business has joined as a supporting member of Inklusiiv, which promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in the working life. Julia Hämäläinen, Chief Operating Officer at Inklusiiv, delighted Design Stories with 10 steps towards a more inclusive everyday life.
A THRIVING COMMUNITY not only requires ongoing work but it is also one of the key themes of Finnish Design Shop's sustainability efforts. In order to promote values essential to all of our operations, we have organised diversity, equity and inclusion trainings for our entire personnel, in collaboration with Inklusiiv. Additionally, Finnish Design Shop has joined as a supporting member of Inklusiiv to ensure the sustained development of our operations.
We asked Julia Hämäläinen, Chief Operating Officer at Inklusiiv, to tell us about the association's activities and share tips on how how to promote inclusion in everyday life.
Hi, Julia! You are Inklusiiv's Chief Operating Officer and also work as a D&I Consultant. How did the story of Inklusiiv begin, and what are among its key areas?
“Inklusiiv is a registered association, which was founded in 2019 by Katja Toropainen. Its mission is to share knowledge on diversity, equity and inclusion, and to support organisations in transforming it into action. Inklusiiv originated in a campaign that challenged companies to share insights on their diversity data.
It wasn't long until Inklusiiv attracted likeminded businesses and individuals that wanted to support and promote change within the Finnish working life. Currently, we are building a continuously expanding community, including a total of 54 membership organisations, in order to support them in the advancement of diversity and inclusion. We work on an array of projects, campaigns and events that support building a diverse and inclusive professional sphere. Additionally, we offer custom-tailored services, trainings and consulting.”
Diversity and inclusion may be new terms to some. Could you elaborate on their meanings?
“Diversity refers to the differences between people including, but not limited to, gender, age, ethnicity, educational background, nationality or sexual orientation. Inclusion refers to an environment that fosters a sense of belonging, openness, psychological safety and mutual respect. An inclusive work culture is one in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully. Each individual has the opportunity to contribute fully to the organisation's success and have their voice heard.”
“An inclusive work culture is one in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully.”
What kinds of challenges do businesses usually struggle with in terms of diversity and inclusion?
“The importance of the themes has been a topic of discussion for a while now, but many businesses are lacking when it comes to taking action. One of the most common challenges is the lack of understanding and awareness at the leadership level. Pervasive change can only begin once those in leadership positions not only understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion but also action them in daily operations. Another challenge pertains to the lack of tools and expertise, which causes businesses to often opt for quick and easy fixes. Instead of ticking a box with minimal effort, dealing with structural challenges requires ongoing, systematic action. The third challenge relates to not recognising the need to learn more about cultures different to our own, our personal biases, and respecting differences.”
Could you tell us a bit about your own career path?
“I have worked in international organisations, both in Finland and abroad. In addition to acting as Chief People Officer at Slush, Europe's leading startup and tech event, I have also been in charge of global HR operations at Smartly.io, a company building a social media automation software.
My professional experiences have led me to see that diversity is essential to succeeding, expanding internationally, and sustaining competitiveness in the long run. The development efforts benefit organisations, teams and individuals, as they advance a more equitable and better working life for all. Everyone should have the opportunity to make use of their full potential.”
How can information on diversity and inclusion be shared in different ways?
“We have been thrilled to notice that awareness of the themes has become a more widespread topic of discussion, both in the media as well as social media channels. Nonetheless, there is still much to be done to put diversity and inclusion into practice in the working life. The role of data, research and practical examples is considerable in driving change.
We at Inklusiiv are especially focused on increasing awareness, in addition to helping organisations transform knowledge into action. Our resource pool includes best practices and key takeaways from the research that we have conducted on the state of diversity and inclusion in Finland-based companies.”
“Inclusion is more than just a mindset, as its advancement also requires action.”
Finnish Design Shop is involved in Inklusiiv's work as a supporting member. What does the membership entail?
“We are building a community that is centered on constant learning and the development of daily operations. Regardless of each organisation's point of departure, our community can assist in moving forward on the journey towards a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Members can make use of our resources, learn and share best practices during events and activities, and network with other organisations that promote the same themes. For instance, we recently organised the Inklusiiv Talks event, which focused on inclusive leadership. We also encourage our members to focus on an array of related topics, such as unconscious biases and ways to be a better ally.”
How can each of us take diversity and inclusion topics into consideration in everyday life, both at the workplace and beyond?
“Inclusion is more than just a mindset, as its advancement also requires action. Although it's easy to think that the responsibility lies with others, it's essential to start with ourselves: our own awareness and understanding, and the development of the two. It is an ongoing process – one that is never complete. Each of us can make use of the steps below to move forward!”
10 steps towards inclusion that everyone can take
- Discuss, read and raise awareness proactively.
- Learn from your own unconscious biases.
- Think about how you communicate (e.g. words, pictures and language).
- Listen actively and be empathetic.
- Challenge stereotypes and avoid assumptions.
- Be aware of your own status and privileges.
- Stay open, curious and ask lots of questions.
- Do not underestimate the experiences or feelings of others.
- Appreciate each individual as they are.
- If you see that someone is doing something wrong or disrespectful, take actions.
Text: Eero Nurmi Images: Wasim Al-Nasser and Vera Väänänen Illustrations: Eija Vehviläinen