Designing for Inclusion and Advocating for Diversity: EDGE-crafters can be change-makers too!
by Bhargavi Ram
March 6, 2023
There is a demand for businesses to be perfect in the world we live in today. With the plethora of information available to consumers, we can use our voices to hold companies accountable for their lack of inclusivity or their unethical practices. Microsoft has an entire site dedicated to Inclusive Design with resources to learn how to be inclusive.
Their toolkits and booklets detail how we can change the organization of a company to improve their design processes. Design is in all aspects of a business and studying the design process can uncover places where a company could be doing better. Learning how we can be more inclusive and diverse can help to bring a company closer to its customers. As newcomers, we have a responsibility to advocate for inclusivity by bringing potential solutions and our own experiences to the table.
I started to attend Northeastern as an undeclared student and eventually decided to choose Marketing and UX Design as a combined major. This was the perfect decision for me as I was able to use my communication and people skills in both while honing the innate creative ability that I already possessed to learn how to take my strengths and use them in the professional world. I wanted to learn ways to enjoy the work that I was doing but also be challenged and push myself to try something unfamiliar. I learned during my first two co-ops at bluebird bio and Akamai Technologies that there were always ways that I could use design thinking to improve internal processes and communication between team members and it was always appreciated by my managers. Understanding how to synthesize information or improve the connections between the company and the customers is something that both marketing and design principles help to achieve. If the consumer doesn’t understand the offering, the company will fail.
My value to companies was always to use my learned skills in the design process to offer a new perspective on their teams to give insight to where they could be making changes to have more efficiency. In crafting my EDGE and thinking about my employability, I knew that I should talk about my design skills in a manner that shows my multidimensional interests and skills that set me apart from other candidates. I am also Indian and while I choose to believe that my employers can remain impartial about my background when making decisions, I know that this is a part of me that makes me unique and able to contribute to a diversity of thought. My experiences and diverse background in both culture and workplace experience are what give me an advantage when compared to others. Whether that is the reason I am hired or not, I feel that I should advocate for both inclusion and diversity wherever I go to make sure that I bring light to the problems that exist. I can be a catalyst for change and help those that can make change enact it to make sure that companies are designing with people, for people.
What is Inclusive Design? This type of design means incorporating a variety of perspectives and backgrounds to create something that everyone is welcome to use. Why is Inclusive Design important? Inclusivity expands the audience for a product by understanding the diversity of ways that people can interact with a product. Once we understand this, we can create the optimal customer experience for all.
You may ask, why should I be responsible for encouraging a company to change its practices? It can be so easy to put your ~40 hours in and finish your work and move on, but being in the majority of people, we must take care of those who can’t advocate for themselves. Consumers are demanding that companies market to all and not few. When a company has a product that clearly isn’t inclusive, the whole organization can be viewed as exclusive which could have a negative impact on the company performance. As the world that we live in becomes more integrated and accessible, companies need to meet the demand for representation and inclusivity that customers expect. There is so much that we can do as newcomers into the industry, and we must take advantage of this opportunity to give honest opinions and suggestions for improvement.
We can think about how new team members are trained and what could be better about the experience. We can think about how to bring outsiders into the company for a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey and marketing process. We can ensure that those who are typically in the minority are represented in new designs and that when creating new offerings, that we are truly meeting their needs. We can also ask relevant questions to higher-ups to start the conversation and push for an organization that thinks about their consumers first. We can push for more focus groups and more rigorous testing before a product launch to be more confident in its success with all groups of people.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for a company to consider is respect for their potential customers. When a consumer feels respected, they are more likely to form brand loyalty and advocate for the company to others. These steps are general suggestions for ways that you can be a change-maker even as a newcomer anywhere you go.
- Recognize what audiences are currently not being served or represented
- Develop a diverse team that has a variety of experiences
- Provide an outlet for customer feedback and communication
- Make a commitment to long-term change throughout the entire company.
These can be ways to make sure that current and future offerings from any organization are inclusive. By starting a conversation with these steps in mind, we can help get the company to where it should be. Change starts at the individual level and where we are in our career is a really powerful place to be. With the right communication method and information to support you, you can really advocate for inclusivity and diversity in an effective way.
My EDGE, which consists of my core, trust and added value, are all amplified when I decided not only to advocate for myself but for those who aren’t able to do it for themselves.
About the Author
Bhargavi is graduating from Northeastern University with an undergraduate degree in marketing and experience design. With that degree she is starting her career at Akamai Technologies working on their Competitive Intelligence team and hopes to develop her knowledge of the cybersecurity industry and become a stronger leader. Outside of the professional world, she loves to play tennis and pickleball and enjoys being on the water at any chance she can get.