• Yulkendy Valdez

5 Easy Ways to Show Someone they Belong in 2021

1. Say their Name

Kamala Harris is making history this week as the first female vice president. She is also the first Black and South Asian woman to hold this office, yet many people, especially influential ones, won’t take the time to say her name correctly.

From CNN to Marie Claire, media publications have written articles on how to pronounce Kamala (it’s “comma-la”). Unfortunately, this is not a unique occurrence.

Given my name is “Yulkendy,” I had to navigate this growing up and now in the professional world.

If you don’t know how to say someone’s name, ask and verify you are saying it correctly. Please don’t get comfortable with butchering someone’s name as it might be received as a microaggression and lack of respect and inclusion.

2. Don't Assume their Pronouns

35% of Generation Z say they personally know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns like “they” and “them,” compared to a quarter of millennials who said the same (Pew Research Center)

When I say pronouns, you might be used to gender binary ones such as “He / Him / His” and “She / Her / Hers,” but the reality is that this no longer applies to our modern society. Folx may opt-in for more gender-expansive pronouns such as “They, Ze, Hir.” Just like with names, if you don’t know, ask and verify.

As a side note, I still receive emails with “Mrs. Valdez.” First, I am not a Mrs. (a person’s wife), and secondly, Mr. and Ms. are also becoming updated.

3. Be Radically Transparent

Talk about Race Toolkit

For my winter holiday reading, I read Principles by Ray Dalio. In the book, he talks a lot about the need for radical transparency to be successful as a leader.

I wish this term were applied when talking about diversity and inclusion. I would argue that culture change is not happening rapidly because we often hold back. We are not ready to hear or take in the “ouch!” moments.

Courageous conversations can often lead to comfortable conversations. This year, I challenge you to have at least one radically transparent conversation about race and equity with your colleagues or friends.

4. Make Room

It is essential to be mindful of taking too much space, especially if you experience a lot of privilege.

In a virtual space, this might mean reaching out to someone whose voice is not typically heard over email or zoom to see if they want to support an important project or letting them take the reins in one of the upcoming meetings.

5. Give Credit where it is due

Recognize and value people, especially from underestimated groups, for their accomplishments. This can go a long way when it comes to belonging.

It is as simple as saying, “You did a great job at the meeting or project because of X, Y, Z. I would love for you to take on this new opportunity.

Recognize. Sponsor. Promote. Advance.