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Inclusive or Exclusive?

Are You Really Being Inclusive?

"I'll be forever grateful to you for introducing me to this person!" 


This lovely sentiment was shared with me over a cocktail at the W Hotel overlooking Darling Harbour. I was in Sydney last week for Design Show Australia and was fortunate to host two speaking events, which went incredibly well. However, my favourite part of the week was catching up with members from the TDC community. 


The designer who delivered this statement to me is a loyal TDC member who has participated in many of our courses and programs. The friend she was talking about (who was also having a cocktail with us!) is also a valued member of the TDC community. One lives in Melbourne, and the other Sydney. They're quite different personalities, and most likely wouldn't have been friends, had they not crossed paths at TDC.


In fact, they were both members of my first ever Premium Group Coaching Program, and both came to the Byron Bay Retreats in 2021 and 2022.


Since then, a beautiful friendship has been forged.


That night we all shared personal and professional stories, some high points and some painful low points. There were many laughs and above all else, an overwhelming sense of camaraderie.


Sitting there watching my two friends connect on such a special level, and receiving thanks for introducing them, my heart swelled incredibly.


I take great pride in watching our members come together (from all walks of life), everyone with different stories and different challenges, open to learning about one another and from one another. That's why creating and fostering community is such an important part of what we do at TDC.


At Design Show Australia, I got to catch up with so many of our members who I now call friends. People who've shared their lives with me over the years, giving me the privilege of letting me into their personal and professional worlds.


I feel that it's never been a more important time for us to support one another, being there through the tough times, and (just as importantly) celebrating one another's wins.


A huge part of this is coming from a mindset of inclusivity over exclusivity.


Like everyone, I know what it feels like to be excluded.


As a young (not openly) gay man, I was regularly excluded from social groups (not just by other males) because my interests weren't typically mainstream heteronormative. When I came out in my young adulthood, the exclusion was even more pronounced. Even within the gay community, there was a constant boxing of individuals into sub-categories of gay (from "bears" to "twinks" to "femmes") that never felt comfortable for me.


As someone who doesn't have a formal design qualification, there have certainly been times when I've been made to feel unwelcome or "less than" at events with formal industry bodies. Whilst I understand that there are roles in the design process that require formal skills and qualifications, outside of these technicalities, I wonder how much of this is driven by a need to feel better than others?


In our industry, it's quite common to find events or groups that are created exclusively for women in design, providing them with a platform for furthering education, fostering networking and providing them with powerful role models.


Now, I'm a huge fan of empowering women (over 95% of our active members are women) and I'm a fan of all of these activities (education, networking, community), but in an industry where women make up the majority, I wonder, is there a need to exclude people on the basis of gender? Can't we empower one another, regardless of our gender?


In our modern world where gender is understood to be far less rigid than "male" or "female", are we segregating our community unnecessarily? Are we being truly inclusive?   


I choose to live into my values of kindness and inclusion on a daily basis, and have set up TDC to be welcoming to everyone - no matter your level of experience, your qualifications, your financial status, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, or your political orientation.


It's important to me that people working in the design community feel that they have a safe, inclusive place to connect and grow, and I'm so proud to have created a platform for that to happen.  

Until next week, stay well and always be kind.




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