We’re celebrating our fourth annual Global Week of Belonging, a time to further educate, engage and involve colleagues in our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) efforts. This year’s theme, “Connecting Cultures to Navigate Change,” highlights the importance of understanding and embracing diverse perspectives to foster an inclusive environment, where everyone feels that they belong. For this special edition of Inside Edelman, we profiled colleagues from our global offices who are embodying Edelman’s commitment to DEIB and are advocates for building acceptance and understanding within the firm and beyond.

What does belonging mean to you within the context of cultural diversity, and why do you think it’s important in the workplace? 

For me, belonging means that treatment, respect, and trust are equitable for everyone, without distinction. You can't feel a sense of belonging in the workplace if there isn't equity: equal access to resources for growth, learning, building relationships with colleagues, and, most importantly, performing one's job effectively.

Can you share any personal experiences where your cultural background intersected with others?

Yes, I can. I think it's impossible not to have that, right? Because, as me being deaf, I face various challenges regarding communication. So, this ends up becoming a sociocultural shock: hearing people are placed in a learning position - after all, many of them haven't even had direct contact with a deaf person in the Communication field (which becomes somewhat ironic, considering that one of the premises of Communication is diversity and plurality, don't you think?). But, I'll bring here an experience that, for me, was a milestone: Nathalie Folco, the VP of Digital Operations LATAM, by her own choice, learned Brazilian Sign Language to be able to communicate with me, and that was a shock to me because I've never had a person in a leadership position who put themselves in a position of 'I really need to learn in order to have the essentials with Jorge, which is to communicate with him.' As I talked about belonging. That's exactly it.

How do you think the intersection of different cultures influences one's sense of belonging?

Yes, I believe that the junction of cultures creates a sense of belonging. After all, I am speaking from personal experience, correct? Throughout my undergraduate studies, I was the only deaf person, but because there were individuals with other disabilities or who were members of other underrepresented groups, such as LGBTQIA+ (of which I am also a member), I was able to form close relationships and bonds. Without them, I would have been unable to graduate.

From your perspective, what are the most significant barriers to achieving a sense of connectivity and belonging in the workplace and how can we address them?

Well, I feel that one of the most significant impediments is precisely the opportunity. Many members of underrepresented groups are unable to develop socially, resulting in a lack of proximity and a diminishing sense of belonging. After all, if there are no underrepresented individuals in leadership positions, how will these employees feel a sense of belonging? It is essential to promote opportunities for growth, as well as social and economic enhancements, through representation.

How do you personally try to foster a sense of belonging within your team or your organization?

I prefer to directly build a sense of belonging by raising awareness about my team and our company. Awareness means encouraging challenges and improvements from within, both structurally and systemically. For example, I'm working on a pro bono project with certain Edelman employees to increase accessibility on Edelman Brazil (from the website to the Edelman agency).

Jorge Rodrigues is an Analyst on the Edelman DXI team based in Sao Paulo.