An Inclusive Approach to Holiday Celebrations

Make DEI-aware holidays a year-round initiative 

Guest post by Charles Scogna, Writer, Association Headquarters

November and December are widely considered the holiday season in the United States, with Thanksgiving and Christmas at its core.

However, many other significant religious and cultural holidays and observances have largely been overlooked in the US workplace, such as Passover, Diwali, and Ramadan. Organizations that plan to recognize holidays can also celebrate a diverse workforce by adding a range of holidays and observances to their holiday calendars.

Focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

At its most fundamental, DEI serves as an all-encompassing mission for representation. In DEI-focused workplaces, all are welcomed. In the new age of remote work, such ideals become even more impactful, as associations may not be able to utilize physical spaces and in-person gatherings to assist in DEI activities, such as holiday celebrations or team-building trainings.

But while the aspects of DEI are most often grouped together, each carries its own importance. “DEI is always a three-fold process for awareness,” said Amy Williams, CAE, MPA, IOM, Chair of the DEI Advisory Council at Associations Headquarters (AH) and VP of Sales and Consulting. Diversity focuses on representation of people of all cultures and identities. Equity aims to provide fair treatment and opportunities for everyone. Inclusion strives for each person to feel part of the team and valued as an individual. To approach one requires approaching all.

Together, a DEI-focused culture offers environments of safety, respect, and belonging, especially throughout the year as holidays are celebrated, many of which involve incredibly strong ties to culture and beliefs—holidays such as Yom Kippur, Kwanzaa, and Día de los Muertos.

Moreover, to implement DEI-focused culture catalyzes environments of positive outcomes. According to a study by Project Aristotle, psychological safety was the most important aspect of working within a team, meaning if members feel they are valued, they are more likely to take more risks and produce more effective results.

DEI-Aware Holidays and Beyond

As associations seek to implement more DEI-focused strategies, the question remains how best to approach it. While the answer will vary by organization, at AH, it starts with culture. “Our culture is a huge part of AH,” said Williams. “We are working to ensure DEI is firmly embedded in our culture.”

The AH method can be described as inward and outward, a two-pronged approach to establishing a strong, representative workplace. Inwardly, AH created an advisory council to ensure the implementation of DEI strategies and to serve as a resource on DEI-related issues and concerns. When it comes to holiday celebrations, specifically, the council focuses on general inclusivity, regardless if any current staff celebrate. “One of our goals is to bring awareness to holidays and celebrations many of us may not have known before,” said Williams. “We want to celebrate everyone’s differences and build more inclusivity.”

AH seeks input from staff, including testimonials from those who celebrate holidays and future ideas on how to improve DEI. “The advisory council is always seeking more ways to ensure staff feels recognized and included,” said Williams. “We want to be equitable and making sure everyone has the same opportunities at AH.”

Outwardly, AH focuses specifically on conversation and engagement. One of AH’s DEI areas of focus is to widen the definition of the holiday season to a year-long celebration of the various peoples, religions, and cultures throughout the world. As a part of AH’s holiday and heritage month recognition calendar, the firm’s social media posts include staff highlights, organization and association leader spotlights, as well as tips to be an ally to not only bring awareness to a celebration such as a holiday, but also connect different sects of people. For example, bringing awareness to a holiday such as Rosh Hashanah.

The Ultimate Goal of DEI

DEI remains one of the most important aspects of workplace culture. As awareness of its positive impact grows, so, too, does the recognition of the various cultures and identities that make up the world, displayed during the holidays throughout the year.

While organizations like AH drive DEI forward in the world of associations and beyond, the ultimate goal of DEI focused initiatives is for them to eventually end.

“We hope that eventually it won’t need to be a separate and specific initiative,” Williams said. “DEI will be embedded into our culture and it is just going to be a part of what we do.”

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