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How Can We Overcome Bigotry in Today's Society?



Growing up, I navigated a world shaped by blissful ignorance and painful realisations, where confronting bigotry was both a personal journey and a societal imperative. My transition from Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Canada began a quest for understanding that would shape my perspective on acceptance and inclusion.


One defining moment occurred during my childhood in Canada when I was out of place in a geography class discussion. As my classmates effortlessly delved into the nuances of a region they had studied extensively, I grappled with the pressure to maintain appearances rather than admit my lack of knowledge. It was a humbling experience, underscoring the importance of humility and respect in our interactions.


Another significant challenge arose when I grappled with my religious identity within the context of my community's expectations. The decision to convert to Catholicism felt like a betrayal of my Protestant roots, but it was a necessary step in my journey toward self-acceptance. Coming out to my parents about my religious conversion was a daunting task. Still, their response was one of acceptance and understanding, reinforcing the importance of open communication and genuine connection.


Returning to my birthplace after nearly five decades, I confronted the lingering tensions and prejudices that had shaped my childhood. It was a sobering reminder of the need to confront bigotry, both within ourselves and within our communities. Despite the discomfort and risks involved, the journey was worth it, reaffirming my commitment to fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.


For parents today, fostering acceptance means engaging in open dialogue with their children about the complexities of the world they inhabit. It requires courage and vulnerability, but it's essential if we hope to raise a generation free from the burdens of bigotry.


For those who advocate for change, it's not enough to simply talk the talk. We must also walk the walk and hold ourselves and others accountable for the values we espouse. Actual progress begins with acknowledging our limitations and embracing the diversity of perspectives that enrich our lives.


To combat bigotry and promote acceptance in organisations, specific actions can be taken:


  1. Increased Innovation: Research by Cloverpop, a diversity and inclusion consultancy, found that companies with a diverse workforce were 1.8 times more likely to outperform their peers on sales measures. This innovation boost is attributed to the broader range of perspectives and experiences brought to the table by a diverse team.

  2. Improved Decision-Making: A study by McKinsey & Company showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Diverse teams challenge assumptions and consider broader options, leading to more well-rounded decisions.

  3. Enhanced Employee Engagement: Employees who feel valued and respected for their unique contributions are more likely to be engaged and productive. A study by Deloitte found that employees who felt included were more likely to report being highly satisfied with their jobs (83%) compared to those who didn't feel included (22%).

  4. Attracting Top Talent: Companies with a reputation for inclusivity are more likely to attract and retain top talent from a wider pool. A study by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers consider a company's diversity when deciding on a job offer.


However, it's essential to acknowledge potential concerns and objections that may arise:

  • Counterargument 1: Some may argue that reviewing and updating policies to be more inclusive may be costly and time-consuming for organisations, especially small businesses.

  • Response: While there may be initial challenges, the long-term benefits of inclusivity, such as improved employee morale and productivity, outweigh the costs. Additionally, resources and support are often available to assist organisations in making these changes efficiently and effectively.


  • Counterargument 2: Others may express concerns that focusing on inclusivity may lead to reverse discrimination or preferential treatment for certain groups, disadvantaging others.

  • Response: Inclusivity aims not to disadvantage any particular group but to create a level playing field where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive. Inclusive policies address systemic barriers and ensure everyone can access the same resources and opportunities.


By integrating these insights and addressing potential concerns, we can work towards building a more inclusive and accepting society for all.


Evidence from the ACEs Study conducted by the CDC-Kaiser Permanente and research by Harvard University's Implicit Association Test demonstrates the lasting impact of childhood experiences on adult behaviour and biases. Moreover, studies by the Gottman Institute and the National Healthy Marriage Resource Centre underscore the importance of open communication and emotional connection in healthy families.


In the corporate world, evidence from books like "Diversity Wins" by Scott E. Page and reports from McKinsey & Company highlights the benefits of fostering inclusivity and diversity for organisational performance and financial success.


Part of my mandate to create real change is rooted in acceptance without understanding. It's about meeting people where they are and embracing their humanity, even when uncomfortable or challenging. If we want to build a more inclusive and safe society for all, we must do more than talk the talk; we must walk the walk.


Reflecting on the journey that has shaped my life, I am humbled by the profound discovery of acceptance and understanding. It has become an intrinsic part of my spiritual essence, guiding my existence in this vast universe. Embracing acceptance as my raison d'être, or purpose for being, I feel profoundly blessed to share this transformative journey with others. It is a testament to the power of compassion and connection in shaping a brighter, more inclusive future for all.


If you're ready to bring acceptance to your organisation, contact me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com. Together, we can create a brighter, more compassionate future for all.

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