Project Limitless - Building a Diverse and Inclusive YWLC Community
“How do we create a more inclusive and vibrant YWLC community?” This is the problem statement that the Project Limitless team sought to address during the “Designing Your Future at YWLC” workshop held in March 2021. The workshop was conceived for YWLC members to brainstorm solutions for issues that would shape the future of the organisation.
Over the last 7 months, the Project Limitless team spearheaded an initiative to relook at YWLC’s diversity commitment, while implementing a three-pronged approach to support and include women of diverse backgrounds at YWLC. The initiative started with the team and Exco educating themselves on the importance of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), and subsequently hosting a human library event, “Women in Allyship”, to open up conversations on D&I within the home, work, family and social spaces.
Hear from team leads Chandini, Litong and Nithya on their motivations behind this initiative and how we can play our part in building a more diverse and inclusive YWLC community.
Tell us about Project Limitless and what you hoped to achieve through this initiative.
Nithya: We adopted a three-pronged approach to solidify D&I as a key pillar within YWLC:
Developing our D&I mission statement
Running an awareness & educational workshop on D&I
Organising a human-library style event to champion D&I and the intersecting identities of women.
With these efforts, we hope to build D&I allies, challenge unconscious bias and pave the way forward for more conversations and a lasting inclusive change within YWLC.
Litong: We believe that the community will thrive when we celebrate individuality and authenticity in identities, interests and ideas. Through the project, our goal was to start conversations on D&I and in the long term, attract and retain members of diverse backgrounds (including ethnicity and profession).
What does Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) mean to you personally and why is it important to our community?
Chandini: Our community should reflect the diversity of a world composed of countless cultures, perspectives, and ethnicities. Given the strides made in recent years, it is also important to note how D&I has changed. The idea of diversity is no longer binary in terms of race and gender. We have evolved to look at the concept of diversity from the inclusive lens of sexuality, culture, and much more.
As a brown-skinned woman in Singapore, it is important that I see women like myself as mentors, panelists, and CEOs. Representation of our identity in such positions is a testament that we too can get there someday. I am thrilled that YWLC has made a commitment in the path towards greater diversity and inclusion.
Nithya: For me, diversity and inclusion mean access to an unbiased and safe space to have varied voices heard and valued. It is important to recognise that diversity and inclusion can be layered - an intersectional lens shows that a person’s identity is often complex with entities like gender, race, language, culture, etc - this means that everyone has their own unique experience attributed to these nuances. Hence, a strong D&I ethos will enable diverse perspectives and representation, and build an equitable community.
What are some of your personal takeaways from working on this project?
Litong: At the start of the project, there were questions and learnings that came up along the way. For instance, how do we unpack D&I? How do we educate ourselves, the Project Limitless subcommittee and YWLC’s Exco, so as to effectively formulate our next steps? I have learned that D&I only works when it is a two-way conversation. Coming together in an open, honest and active manner helps us to remember the objective of D&I. Hence, with the help of YWLC member Adila and her resources, we created a safe space to learn with the subcommittee and exco. Ultimately, advancing the objective of D&I starts with ourselves.
My other takeaway from working on the project is the close relationship that I have forged with the other ladies in the Project Limitless core team, Chandini and Nithya. From them, and the numerous resources and podcasts we have shared, I was exposed to current events, anecdotal incidents that allowed me to understand D&I in a different light.
Chandini: The time to act is now and I am glad to be part of the team that is working towards making YWLC a more diverse and inclusive community. It is not easy building a successful D&I strategy. It is dependent on taking a progressive approach that stems from understanding local nuances on multiple dimensions: cultural, social, economic, and environmental. Such matters are sensitive, and this is a path that the team had to tread carefully.
While diversity and inclusion are distinct and require attention in their own right, they are inherently shaped by one another.
The initiative doesn’t end here: How can our members support and build a more diverse and inclusive YWLC moving forward?
Litong: From the esteemed speakers as well as participants of our flagship event, I have learned that the best way to support a more inclusive YWLC community is to bring yourself to diversity.
Follow different voices on social media
Be active in making connections beyond your interests and ethnicity
Read corporate profiles on what they are doing
Where there is a lack of resources, take the initiative to create them, be it in the workspace or in your social circle
Chandini: There are some core competencies that help to drive an inclusive organisation — conflict resolution, problem-solving, active listening, and empathy. If people have the ability to learn and activate these vital skills, it will lead to a more inclusive environment.
It is not just about developing a better understanding of cultural differences; it is about giving people the space they need to have difficult conversations. We should be more empathetic towards people who are making a genuine effort to understand matters of diversity. A little patience and kindness will go a long way in navigating these tricky conversations.
D&I has to be seen as a catalyst of the wider organisational strategy and incorporated in everything the organisation does. Else, it will remain as an obligatory afterthought.
Nithya: Follow the 3 Ls!
Listen - Encourage constructive conversations around privilege and status quo to acknowledge your individual biases.
Learn - Be aware of issues affecting different groups of women in our society and extend your support by lending a listening ear or working with a minority organisation.
Lead - Acknowledge the bias and be the voice of change by becoming allies and sponsors of underrepresented groups.
Click here to subscribe to YWLC's monthly newsletter and be the first to get our latest updates in your inbox.
Organising Committee: Strategy & Partnerships, Marketing & Communications Organising Team: Yvonne Mak, Joey Ong Interviewees: Chandini Manoharan, Tan Litong, Nithya Karthikeyan Interviewer: Maeve Woh