Levels to Inclusion: An Interview with Awatif Yahya
Awatif Yahya is the Founder of Awe Horizons LLC. She holds 15 years of international work experience, 10 of which have been with a multinational organization (British American Tobacco) in the following capacities: Human Resources, Marketing Intelligence, Business Projects, Strategy Development, IT.
Holistic was able to chat with Awatif to learn more about her efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive environment through her career and her company, Awe Horizons.
What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?
To me, there are several levels of diversity and inclusion starting with awareness, then moving on to tolerance, acceptance, all finally reaching full maturity of D&I by embracing it. Embracing diversity and inclusion means you actively seek out the opinions and experiences of different people to enhance and develop your own understanding and world view.
What role do these matters play in your life and career?
Diversity and inclusion are very important to me. I have had to deal with these issues at different levels, from being accepted as a businesswoman in a male-dominated role and society, all the way to my personal life, being in a cross-racial relationship.
What are some steps that you take whether at Awe Horizons or in your day to day to foster diverse and inclusive environments?
I strongly believe my love for travel, understanding different cultures, and tasting different cuisines have enabled me to foster diversity and inclusion in all aspects of my lifestyle. I consider myself and my lifestyle to be a walking, living example of how I built these matters into everything I do and represent.
What challenges have you faced when speaking about or taking action on these matters?
I have dealt with lots of sensitivity, especially in the USA. People get very defensive and sensitive when diversity and inclusion are discussed. Some assume they are being accused of inequality and racism by simply hearing the words diversity and inclusion. I wrote a blog on Race and Ethnicity back in May of 2018 which made some people react in a very sensitive manner.
What are some of the accomplishments you've made by speaking of or by fostering diversity and inclusion?
As stated before, I blog about topics I am passionate about, one of them being diversity and inclusion. I also incorporate D&I in some of the workshops I offer, especially those focusing on work culture. I take participants through a reflection exercise to brainstorm on the topic and encourage them to make more meaningful discussions on these matters. I think talking about D&I and raising awareness is the first step to doing something about it, and that is what I focus on.
What or who inspires you to be diverse and inclusive?
I have always admired Nelson Mandela, specifically in his ability to love those who imprisoned him (while he was in prison) and working with people who initially hated him and labeled him a terrorist to build a better South Africa. If Nelson Mandela was able to love his captors and used love to include everyone, then we can certainly do that and be better at including those around us who are different from us.
What is your dream for the future of our society when it comes to these matters?
That we stop putting people in the categories we have now (e.g. race/generation/sexual orientation/religion ...etc.), but rather look at their passions, their skills, and contributions.
What would you like to see happen in other people around you that would motivate and inspire others to also be diverse and inclusive?
I would like people to be open to discussions with others who are different from them and not be quick at judging and stereotyping!
What were your dreams/goals as a young child? What are your dreams/goals now? Surprisingly, one of the careers I wanted for myself when I was a child was to be a journalist. I went through different professions when I was younger, and being a journalist was one of them. The reason I wanted to be a journalist was to help people by raising awareness and telling the truth. Now, I offer leadership workshops to business managers and entrepreneurs, which is not far from my original childhood dream. That makes me happy.