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    Inclusion Must Be Intentional

    One of my favorite comedians is Josh Blue. Even though I wasn’t able to catch him live at the Kennedy Center this month, the media blurb about Josh is wonderful: “Josh Blue centers much of his self-deprecating act around his disability. He exploded onto the national comedy scene by capturing the attention and endearment of the country as the winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He has since starred in Comedy Central Presents: Josh Blue, which received rave reviews from fans and critics alike.” The write-up continues: “Possessed with an undeniable like-ability and comedic timing that belies his youthfulness, Blue continues to break down stereotypes of people with disabilities—one laugh at a time.”

    Josh makes a living and career as a stand-up comedian, which is hard in and of itself. I recently read that: “[I]f an individual does not have actual comedy talent, their chances of becoming a comedian are almost non-existent.” But Josh is doing it with a smile, taking his checks to the bank and with a large social media following and fan base.

    Inclusion must be intentional. At our organization, Goodwill Industries International, Inc. (GII), we have a culture statement entitled “Walk This Way.” Our statement originally included seven value attributes around our use of resources, accountability, innovation and passion for our mission, just to name a few. In 2016, we added a new value attribute:

    We value inclusion and diversity. We respect, value and celebrate each individual’s unique attributes, characteristics and perspectives. We are committed to an inclusive work environment that encourages participation and a diversity of thought and action. We implement corresponding strategies and initiatives that enable our organization to lead, thrive and remain relevant.

    This value attribute was created by GII team members and everyone agreed to the words, the definition and its intentionality.

    As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, my mind always focuses on how we should be truly driving innovation through inclusion. I recently viewed a TedTalk style video by Damien Hooper-Campbell, Chief Diversity Officer at eBay, entitled “Humanize Diversity and Inclusion.” At the end, Damien refers to a poignant saying broadly attributed to Verna Myers and used time and again since: “diversity is being inviting to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.” As an HR professional that has been recruiting top talent for organizations for many years, this saying drives home a key perspective. Inclusion is empty if everyone is not able to participate. Inclusion does not work unless everyone has their voices heard. And, inclusion matters when the insights and contributions of all people are valued and taken seriously, especially in the workplace.

    Josh Blue is funny. He is one of a kind. He is a reality show winner and a successful comedian that happens to have cerebral palsy. To me, he is a great comedian and is truly an innovator!

    Iris Drayton-Spann
    Vice President, Human Resources at Goodwill Industries International
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