Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Concept Vocabulary: Diversity & Inclusion (and importance of holding space, and avoiding secondary trauma)

The word “diversity” seems to appear more frequently now in conversations and in the media. It is often coupled with the lesser used word, “inclusion”, as a similar cousin of diversity. Though related, the nuance points to the challenges we are facing with gender and race, and perhaps more fundamentally, the distribution of power.

In one of my first business trips to Silicon Valley, I remember attending an industry luncheon event, thinking it would be a good way to meet people and familiarize myself with the tech scene here. The topic and the speaker were unmemorable, but burned into my memory was the sensation of…”ick”.

The presenter, organizers, and most of the attendees were white males. A few Asian males I spotted in the hotel banquet hall turned out to be industry supporters, service providers like attorneys practicing intellectual property law, or bankers specializing in business loans. There were Hispanic folks (the term Latinx was not part of the vernacular then) as well , but they all wore black and white uniforms, as they were hotel wait staff.

I remained unable to pay attention to anything else that went on that afternoon, being waited on by an all Hispanic staff, while Caucasian members set and broadcasted their agendas, and Asian providers leaned in to somehow be part of it.

I also recall vividly, meeting up with a college friend who lived in Silicon Valley, and telling her how disturbed I was to be in that meeting room that afternoon. “Oh no, Yuka,” she argued, “Silicon Valley is very diverse.” Because she took my experience as an insult to her home town, she also needed to deny me of my experience, that somehow it didn’t happen.

Had I known the term “inclusion” then, I would have been able to explain to her, or at least to myself, that diversity…having a variety of people in the room, wasn’t sufficient. What I longed for in a community was inclusion: where diversity in existence, translated to diversity of thoughts and perspectives, and dynamics was such that the community reaped the benefits of that richness.

Had I known the term “secondary trauma”, I would have been able to explain to her, or at least to myself, why I felt even worse reciting the events of the day to her to be denied my emotion and experience.

Had I known the term “holding space”, I would have been able to explain to her, or at least to myself, that what the situation called for, what I needed, was for someone else to hold the space for me to be able to sit with the emotion and the experience as mine and valid, if she, as a white woman growing up in Silicon Valley, couldn’t identify with it or accept it.

10+ years after the incident, I started keeping track of diversity and inclusion related vocabulary so that I can label these incidents and reactions, so that I can better communicate and explore these concepts to move the community from intolerance to tolerance, from tolerance to embracing our diversity, and to practice inclusion.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Diversity vs. Inclusion 

Diversity = mix; Inclusion = making the mix work, or said another way, “Diversity is when you count the people; Inclusion is when the people count”.

An analogy: Diversity is when everyone shows up to the dance party. Inclusion is when everyone is dancing.

Secondary Trauma

is described by Wikipedia that it can be incurred when an individual is exposed to people who have been traumatized themselves, disturbing descriptions of traumatic events by a survivor, or others inflicting cruelty on one another. In diversity and inclusion space, however, I’ve heard it used to describe when the trauma you suffered from an experience is not acknowledged by others (thereby further isolating you from the group). An example might be, if you were shaken by a brutal murder of someone who resembled you (your gender, race, faith, etc.) and others not acknowledging the event (as significant).

Holding space

“to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome” (definition from an Uplift blog post)


Meaning (people) of Latin American origin. The “x” is used as a variable for “a” or “o” to be able to refer to either and both Latina (female) or Latino (male) or folks who don’t identify themselves as either. It allows people to be identified by where they are from, rather than by their ex-conquerers (Hispanics = of Spain). If you specifically mean of Mexico, Chicana or Chicano, can be used. (Of course, not all Hispanic folks are of Latin origin, so similar warning applies to African American vs. Black, where not all black folks are of African origin, or American!!)

Photo: San Francisco’s Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 3, 2018 by in Culture, Diversity & Inclusion, Gender, Uncategorized, Vocabulary.
Follow Sticky Notes of Thoughts on
%d bloggers like this: