Bring the Belonging At Work Summit Home

Wow! We’ve made it to the closing of our first ever Belonging at Work Summit! It’s funny. Even though I’ve been working on this Summit for the past nine months, I’m surprised at how quickly the time passed while also feeling like this journey has been so long, so enormous - in a really enriching way.

Over the past week, we featured 21 diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) thought leaders inviting us to look at many of the barriers that prevent each of us from feeling a true sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging at work. We also recognized and unpacked the ways that belonging may feel unattainable at work because safety and trust must come first, because belonging is about power and agency. It’s also about trust and rapport. Belonging is something that happens in our bodies as our speakers underscored for us and there are so many things that keep us from gaining body awareness and trusting our feelings in a workplace environment.

My hope for this year’s Summit was not to prescribe “solutions” to you because, honestly, how could I possibly ever pretend to know what really is taking place in your organization without working with you one-on-one and with your team? My hope was instead to scratch the surface of so many of the things that are invisible to us, that are ignored, hidden away or absolutely not within our conscious awareness, that make feeling a sense of belonging complicated. And to offer stories around what might be possible for us as we commit to a bold vision of building belonging for the future of workplaces.

As we look ahead at growing the #BelongingMovement, I hope that together we can practice asking things like: What does belonging look like at work? How can we build leadership buy-in to center our DEI commitments around belonging? Where can we find support from allies and fellow #BelongingChampions? How can we become more courageous in sharing our own diversity stories? And how do we prioritize self-care and community-care to stay committed to this work over the long-haul? I’m endlessly curious about what we can envision collectively and how to make the future of work more inclusive for those of us that still find the idea of belonging at work out of reach...out of sight...and out of mind.

I want to focus on the places we connect and overlap. I want to strengthen and grow the possibilities of more belonging, more connection, more access to power and leadership positions, more community support and then building from those places responsibly. For some of us, that means taking up more space and for some of us that means giving up some of our power so that we all might have enough. And truly, that is equity in action. Progress over perfection and collaboration coupled with long-term commitments are at the heart of my questions around belonging at work. 

The old ways of work and how they were structured, what it means to be professional, and how to act as a leader assimilating to an organization’s dominant culture have done quite a number on how we feel about our work, our purpose, and our sense of belonging. We swing wildly between covering, code switching, and conforming as a way to prove our worthiness to “fit” within our workplace’s dominant culture while also striving towards perfectionism, hoarding power, and engaging in either/or thinking. Both are because of the implicit culture built into the workplace systems so many of us have inherited. Which is to say experiencing purpose, meaning, and belonging at work is radical and counter-cultural - things that are both exciting and isolating.

Here is what I know for sure: Your differences are what make you beautiful. Your full, authentic self is basic goodness. Our workplaces have the capacity to embrace all parts of our professional selves, especially those parts that are different from our colleagues - the parts that are remarkable, the parts that allow us to stand out, shine and thrive. And I know for sure that our community has the brainpower, the superpowers, and the commitment to build the workplaces of tomorrow, today - workplaces that give us all a full sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging. As they say, we have to see it to be it, and during this week’s Summit, I believe we all caught a few glimpses of what could be possible if we embrace the traits of inclusive leadership: courage, commitment, curiosity, collaboration, self-awareness, and cultural intelligence are a few of those traits.

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For folks who haven’t purchased extended access, you have until 9 am tomorrow morning to grab a Pro Package, All Access Package, Basic Package, or go all out with your team and invest in an Organizational Package (that’s where you get an extended access package for everyone on your team). After tomorrow at 9 am the prices for these packages will double, so please make this investment today.

For those that participated in this year’s Summit, thank you for joining the #BelongingMovement. Thank you for your comments, your thoughts, your feelings, your energy, the big and the small. It has all contributed to this learning adventure in a meaningful way. I am listening. I am growing. I am in service to build belonging for more organizations. I am focusing on your successes in building belonging for your organization, the community we are building together, and what we might envision is possible for our futures. I am sending an immense amount of appreciation, awe, and really, really good energy your way. Until next year, I’m Rhodes Perry with the Belonging At Work Summit. Thank you for growing the #BelongingMovement.

Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ and social justice public policy matters, with two decades of leadership experience innovating strategy management, policy and program solutions for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. At his core, Rhodes is an entrepreneur, where he most recently established Rhodes Perry Consulting, LLC, a national diversity and inclusion consulting firm that uses an intersectional approach to collaborate with leaders on creating solutions in the practice areas of strategy management, issue advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Rhodes founded the Office of LGBTQ Policy & Practice at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and prior to this assignment he served as the founding Director of Policy at PFLAG National where he led the policy strategy and advocacy efforts for the organization’s 350 chapters. He cut his teeth serving as a Program Examiner at the White House Office of Management & Budget, where he improved upon federal benefit programs designed to provide assistance to low-income communities. Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained a Master of Public Administration from New York University.