The word “inclusivity” has been thrown around everywhere these days. It’s more than just a buzz word, but what exactly does it mean? For Rhodesia Jackson, it simply means making sure that no one is excluded. However, it also means so much more than being included; it’s being celebrated. Rhodesia is a branding and web designer who works with feminist visionaries whose mission is to be more inclusive and diverse in their messaging, marketing, and company culture. On today’s podcast, she joins me to talk about inclusivity in marketing and business, what it looks like, and how white women can do better about creating and supporting a more diverse world of online business.
Listen to the podcast here:
Inclusivity In Marketing & Business With Rhodesia Jackson
I’m speaking with Rhodesia Jackson, a branding and web designer who works with Feminist Visionaries, whose mission is to be more inclusive and diverse in their messaging, marketing and company culture.
We’re talking about inclusivity in marketing and business, what it looks like and how white women can do better about creating and supporting a more diverse world of online business. Ready? Let’s get started.
Thank you so much for being on. I’ve really loved watching the challenge that you’ve got going on in your Facebook group. I think it’s been super informative and helpful.
Just so you can introduce yourself to everyone, I really love to know how you got into the online space. What has led you to your current path in teaching about inclusivity in marketing and business?
I pretty much started out as doing graphic design. As time went on, I evolved into this. I’ve always been interested in social justice and equality and being a fat black queer woman. It’s my life. I started off with graphic and web design and then it naturally moved that way.
I’ve always been an advocate for making sure everyone is represented in my designs, especially with making decisions around stock photos and being part of those conversations in marketing.
This has always been what’s important to me. I’m trying to spread it since right now, it’s obviously a very hot topic in the business world.
None too soon, right? I love seeing the conversations that are popping up. I hope that all the people out there who are currently saying they’re going to learn more and do better and be better, are actually going to do better and be better, and not just learn more while it’s all in the news and then never do anything with it again.
I always appreciate women of color who can put forth their emotional labor to teach white women how to be better. It’s very easy for us to get just blinded behind our privilege and not actually know what’s going on.
I really love to start the show out with definitions, but I think this is the teacher in me at heart. It brings out my nerdy side.
I would love to know how you define inclusivity. I’ve seen a few definitions of what this means, which is surprising to me. I would love for you to define inclusivity and then to tell us what that encompasses.
For me, it’s just making sure that no one is excluded. The opposite of inclusivity is it’s making sure no one, not a single person at a school or what life path they’re on, whether they’re living with a disability, whether they’re queer or whatever race or nationality they are or ethnicity.
That they’re being included in conversations, not just being cast into a stereotype is often the issue when people are talking more diversity.
They’re being included and they’re being the token black person queer. To me, inclusivity is so much more being included, but also celebrated. You’re not ignoring them. You’re not being colorblind, “Everyone’s the same,” and that’s a cop-out to me.
It needs to be about, “Yes, they’re different, but that’s what’s beautiful about you,” as opposed to, “You’re different. I don’t want to know anything about this. I don’t like it.”
Like you said about tokenism where it’s like, “Here’s my one black friend talking to us about stuff. See, I’m not bad, I’m not racist.”
I love the fact that you’re talking about no one feels excluded. I think we have the obvious ways that we’re excluding people based on color, based on gender identity, based on sexuality, etc.
I know there are a lot of others like ableism and things like that, but largely gets overlooked because those issues just aren’t very loud for lack of a better term.
I recently learned just a few weeks ago that when screen readers are reading out hashtags, if you don’t capitalize the first letter of every word in a hashtag, it just reads the letters individually to people.
I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so annoying.” It looks weird because that’s not how hashtags are created or whatever but I’m like, “I’ve got to capitalize these words.” It’s just a constant evolution of learning more and then taking that knowledge and doing better with it, right?Inclusivity is so much more than being included; it also means being celebrated. Click To Tweet
Exactly. I might know a lot about being more inclusive for groups that I’m a part of, but for groups that I’m not a part of, it’s still a learning process for me. I still don’t want them to feel that being excluded.
I don’t want them to feel being excluded. I don’t want them to feel the way how I can look and search for themselves to be represented. I want them to be able to not have to try extra hard to be able to look at a caption on an Instagram post. It shouldn’t be hard.
Because it’s a constant process of learning and evolving. We’re always learning something. You can either choose to assimilate that into your knowledge or not. By assimilating it and using it going forward, you’re growing as a human being, which is always great.
When you’re talking about inclusivity in business and marketing specifically, what does that look like so that you’re not getting stuck in that tokenism place?
A lot of that starts off with exploring your implicit bias. I think exploring your implicit bias also needs to be very purposeful with how you’re deciding to include people of other backgrounds and other groups.
When you’re just hiring someone because they’re black or because they’re a woman, it’s not being inclusive and trying to bring them into the company or into the projects.
Making sure you’re surrounded on the regular with people of different backgrounds makes you realize like, “I shouldn’t be hiring someone because they’re black. I should be hiring them because they’re highly qualified and know what they’re doing.”
They might not get the recognition they deserve because they’re black. Not because it’s not in the spotlight. You’re hiring or bringing them onto a project because they know what they’re doing and they can add a different perspective to your projects that you would never see yourself.
As long as the thought pattern is not, “I need a black person on my team. Let me go make sure I hire a black person.”
Yes, that is the worst.
The thought is, “I need different perspectives here. Where can I go find these different perspectives?” Then you’re actively searching for those and then you’re hiring from the right place.
Yeah and you’re being open. You want to have these different perspectives because they’re important to you and you want to not just have from your own backgrounds.
When people only hire from certain schools or when we hire from certain social series, it’s all the same voices and parents. Everyone thinks everyone’s idea is amazing.
I’m like, “There’s no pushback.” That’s how you end up with commercials or campaigns that are like, “What happened here?”
Exactly, that makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen this conversation happen a lot, especially lately where I’ve seen my fellow white women who were like, “I want to have more black friends.”
They want to increase the diversity around them in their friend groups, in their businesses, in their different social spaces, but they also don’t want to be seen as tokenizing. There’s also the confusion of like, “How do I go out and find these groups without looking like I’m trying to push in or whatever?”
Do you have any thoughts or advice in those situations for people who want to be more inclusive, want to expand the diversity of people that they’re spending time with, but maybe don’t know where to start?
Yeah, I think it starts with thinking about how systemic racism is in this country and how it works. Think about where your kids go to school, where you typically meet new people. If you have children, you meet them at your kid’s soccer games.
Think about who has access to soccer games. Think about who has access to the schools you’re in, who has time to take their kids around to all his games.
If you’re talking about people of color, if they’ve never had a chance to build up their lives and be able to get into the suburbs or wherever you’re living and be able to take your kids to soccer games, you’re not going to meet them.
Think about ways where you can meet other people of color especially black women in your neighborhoods.
I’m sure if you’re a kid is at school and they were friends with one other black person in school, maybe try to meet their parents, make an effort and bring up conversations of race. Don’t ever get some taboo topic. Make an effort to say hello or socialize.
I know that growing up, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and my family was one of the only ones that were black. A lot of times my mom, might not have been that friendly with all of the white mothers but there were some that would make an effort to take time out to meet her.
Even now, I remember those people and those mothers and parents, and I also remember the ones who would ignore my mom and not talk to her at all.
The important part really is to be open to conversations.
Being open to the conversation and open-minded as well. It doesn’t have to be this huge, awkward interaction. Everyone is the same. At the end of the day, we are all humans and we all like to have human connections.
If you have nothing in common with this person, you wouldn’t be friends with them just because they’re black and it doesn’t make any sense. Try to find other things in common.
If you’re just befriending them because they’re black, then you’ve descended into tokenism territory, and no one likes that.
Don’t go out of your way to befriend someone who you have nothing in common with, but expand your thinking when it comes to, “I’m throwing this out there because J. K. Rowling hass been on my mind. This person is also into Harry Potter. We can chat about this and develop a friendship.”
Also, we’re not hiding. We could cover your interest.
We do stuff together.
At book clubs, the gym, fitness classes and just go be a person. If you notice that a whole group is white, think about, “Why is that? Do I want to be part of this group?”
That’s such a good point too, “Why is this whole group white? Do I want to continue to participate in a group that has no diversity?”
There are a lot of spaces. There are a ton of spaces online, especially where that happens, where either there aren’t any people of color or the majority is a bunch of white people. Those spaces feel very flat and unwelcoming, I’m sure.
It’s not somewhere I want to be. I don’t feel anyone else can share my opinions and I can’t be completely open because we know of another parent is going to show up and bite my head off.
When you’re examining your implicit bias, how can you use that examination and conversation to help you do better and then potentially even to educate other white people?
I’m talking white women educating other white women in this situation. How can we do that without centering and making the conversation about us?
It’s always uplifting other voices that are not your own and not trying to be as the expert on race and equality and that sort of thing.
Doing your thing, how you’re also growing, but you also want to teach, share and grow with others. That’s important because no one can be an expert in anything in this world. There’s always more to learn, think about and grow.
I suppose the bias of being able to question your thought process if you see a group of black men, what’s your initial gut reaction? For a group of black women, what’s your initial reaction?
What is your reaction if you realize someone is next to your car that you don’t know if it was a white woman, would you care? If it’s a black woman, would you care?
There have been times when I’m in the grocery store and I walked by someone’s car and they went over to it. Ask yourself why that wasn’t a reaction if it was different if it was someone that was white.
I remember growing up, and I’ve talked about this on the show before. I grew up in a Southern all-white Republican family.
I was taught a lot about biases that don’t make any sense to me now because it’s like, “What? Who cares what color they are when they walk past me?” It doesn’t affect how I react to the situation.
I remember thinking a lot of those thoughts and you’re right. A lot of it was, “Why did I react that way? That’s weird.” That has nothing to do with what’s going on.
Realizing that these reactions are going to come up and don’t beat yourself up for them, but question them 100%. This is because I’ve only decided, “I’m done with this the way I was raised.” It’s ingrained in you and you can’t ignore that. You need to challenge it every step of the way.
It’s like the first thought that pops into your head is a conditioning, but you get to choose what your next thought and your next action is.
If that’s the thought that pops into your head, that’s just your own conditioning based on being raised in a white supremacist society with white privilege.
You get to decide what you do beyond that. Don’t allow the guilt that you feel in that situation to stop you from doing something about it.
It’s the same thing with mindset stuff. It’s very similar to that. The idea that money is hard to get and things like that. It’s hard work to make money and it’s not good to want to make money.
Those are feelings that you’ve learned when you were a child and very similar to the ones that people learn about other people or if they’re different than them. It’s ingrained in you so much that you need to fight back against it.
You do the same thing when you change your thoughts. Anybody who owns a business at this point knows that you have a shit ton of conditioning you have to overcome from everything from your own self-worth, fear and money issues, all that stuff.
If you can change your thoughts to overcome that, you can change your thoughts to overcome white supremacy and racism.
This is a conversation that I’m now seeing a lot as well specifically, how can white women use their privilege to call out discrimination when we see it or bias when we see it?
Because I know there are a ton of spaces online where a white business owner will preach inclusivity and diversity, and then the line of an all-white panel of speakers. What can white women do in situations like that in order to make sure that we’re amplifying the right voices?
If you ever show up or ever invited to any summit or a panel, you need to speak up if you’re not seeing the diversity that you want to see on the panel.
In this day and age, you have the internet. You can find someone who is as qualified as other people who are on this panel to speak to these people. I don’t know whether it’s possible.No one can be an expert in anything in this world. There's always more to learn, think about, and grow. Click To Tweet
It seems to me that even like you’re not making sure your network is diverse enough and that’s their situation. If you see that, the same kinds of people who are organizing and you are like, “This isn’t okay for me.”
They’re either saying, “If I need to change or I’m not being part of it and that might be hard, but that’s the only way things are going to change.” The whole panel is completely white and I’m like, “I’m not represented here. Why would I want to come and listen to this?”
Or the only person of color on the panel is the person talking about diversity. It’s also annoying. What else do we need to know about choosing imagery in our business? Do you have any good resources?
A lot of people use stock photos on Instagram and Facebook and things like that. Are there good resources for women who want to include more diverse people in their stock photos?
You go to most stock photo websites and they’re all a bunch of smiling white people with super straight hair. It is terrible.
My VA, I’m like, “Please, I don’t want all white women on my Instagram feed.” She’s like, “It’s so hard to find not just people who are not all white, but who aren’t all straight-sized, or don’t all have super long shiny hair.”
It’s difficult to find anybody who doesn’t fit that European standard ideal of beauty. I would love to hear about if you know of any resources where we can find other images that show more diversity?
I’m a big fan of Stocksy.com. These photos are a little bit more expensive than some of the other sites, but they have a lot more variation in body sizes and races and they look a lot more natural.
I can’t take the photos on like, “Stop, I can’t.” I honestly never search photos on there or Shutterstock. They are just too stock photo-ey, if you will.
They look fake too, “You stand here with your hand pointed just this way.”
I laugh a little bit with someone actual and it ruins the story train. It’s how you stock photos. You stock photos to tell a story and to bring people into your story.
If you’re using stock photos that look super unnatural, everyone looks the same, but nobody looks like that, I don’t know if everyone looks like that.
You want people who look like real people living real lives. Stocksy.com is really good. I have a subscription at Create Her Stock. It’s all woman of color primarily and that’s somewhere down there as well, but it’s a photographer and she takes pictures every month.
It has new photos in there. I use those photos a lot. Then I also use Adobe Stock a lot. If you really want to put some time into searching, you’ll find some others that are good.
These are all paid options, but it’s because these are of higher quality. Also, Unsplash has a lot of decent photos if you go search in there for a while.
Unsplash is the one that I tend to go for. You do have to search a while to find some.
I get to the point where I’m like, “I can’t spend any more time on this.” My job, I have to look for those constantly. I’m like, “I can’t spend anywhere to find photos.” I’m going to pay but time is money. I can’t keep doing this.
If you have some time on your hands, Unsplash has big ones. I think it’s because it’s primarily people aren’t going to a studio or people who have sourced from different artists that put their photos on there for free.
They have decent photos, a selection of people to their body sizes, races, different abilities, different age groups. It’s also really difficult to find especially doing this work. I want to be including more age groups. I realized I don’t want to use younger people.
They’re all 20 and 30-something.
I like older women and they’re like, “She looks like she’s 30.” I’m like, “Am I an older woman? When did that happen?”
I know. I’m like, “I’m almost 32. Am I older now?” No one told me.
Yes, you are, but finding an older woman who looks like she’s happy about life is the most difficult thing in the world.
You’re either 30 or you’re a grandma. That’s all you get. I have a client whose ideal ICA are women in their 50s and 60s.
That must be so hard to find photos.
It’s almost impossible. Everyone is 30 years old and they’re whatever. We’re at the point where we’re going to hire a photographer and shoot and hire some models.
How many basic white women do we really need? How many can you possibly need at that capacity? We have enough.
It’s too many. For women who want to learn more about what you do and your services, can you tell us a little bit that?
When you’re talking branding and marketing, are you actively doing design? How does it work if people want to work with you? What does that look like?
I actually primarily do the design. I was actually planning on transferring them over to a more feminist inclusive world, working with clients who this is a big proponent for them, that this is something they can care about.
Whether it’s working with clients who are on that side of things, but primarily I do design work. I only work with women. That’s who I ended up working with and having a better working relationship with, so that there’s no weird friction so everything goes well.
There’s no mansplaining. It’s delightful.
Exactly. I’ve worked with a few men, but I’m very selective about it. Sometimes it works out okay. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve decided to stop.
It’s who my branding and how my design style that goes for women. I do a lot of deep-dive searching into your ideal clients, and then a lot of research into your industry and all that fun stuff.
I research and then freaking out other colors, fonts, patterns, photos and styles that make sense for that as far as branding and making a logo.
I’ll also do websites for clients as well. Building from scratch on WordPress. I don’t think it’s fun to be able to build them up around the brands that I built for my clients. I’ve seen that all come to life.
Somebody has to find that fun or the rest of us would just be walking around with ugly websites and no cohesive.
I have really loved this conversation. I’m super glad that you were able to join us. I’m in your Facebook group. Everybody, makes sure you check that out and join. Where else do you like to hang out on the internet so we can find you?
I don’t understand LinkedIn. I wish that I did.
I don’t know. I just go and say like, “What’s up?” I write a few things, comments.
Thank you so much for being on. I really, really appreciate you. I’m looking forward to connecting more deeper and getting more women in your Facebook group to learn more about what it is that you do and building inclusive businesses and incorporating that inclusivity into their marketing.
Thank you. It was great being here and be able to talk with you about this.
Have a good one. Bye.
- Rhodesia Jackson
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About Rhodesia Jackson
Rhodesia Jackson is a branding and web designer living in Boston, MA with her wife and furry feline son. While spending 8 years working as a graphic designer and marketing manager for large companies, she quickly became aware of the lack of diversity and inclusion in the corporate world.
After going through some eye-opening experiences in her personal life, she realized that life is too short to continue to contribute to the success of businesses with values that didn’t align with her own.
In 2018, she took the leap to start her own design business. She now spends her time working with feminist business owners to create brands and websites that help their mission and values shine through.