5 Ways To Inspire Inclusivity In Kids

A few years ago I attended an International Women’s Day reception at the Houses of Parliament. While it was an incredible experience - full of strong, inspiring women, I couldn’t help noticing a complete lack of men. It was an event celebrating women, by women for women. It didn’t feel particularly inclusive, and I didn’t walk away feeling like we’d inspired change.

This year’s themes for International Women’s Day are Inspiring Inclusion and Investing in Women. If the reception had been inclusive, I would have felt more valued, more inspired and more likely to take action (and if they'd invested in those who attended it would have been even better)!

According to Forbes an inclusive environment fosters greater innovation and creativity, increased productivity, happier employees, a better understanding of customers and higher revenue. It allows everyone, regardless of their differences, to feel valued, respected and heard. And yet: 

  • Women are under-represented in decision-making roles, especially women of colour. According to a recent Mckinsey report women represent roughly one in four C-suite leaders, and women of colour just one in 16.
  • According to the WISE Campaign, women make up only 24% of the UK STEM workforce.
  • There is still a 10.7% gender pay gap in the UK (stat refers to mean, full-time, hourly gender pay gap). 

There's still a gap to close when it comes to inclusivity in the workplace, but how can we prevent this gap from happening in the first place? How can we encourage inclusivity from childhood? In this article we explore 5 ways you can encourage children to embrace inclusivity, from promoting empathy and critical thinking to normalising differences.

If you’re wondering why a kids’ clothing brand is writing an article on this topic, we're committed to gender equality, and are frustrated by the lack of inclusivity in kids' fashion. Many brands pigeonhole children into 'pink, cute and kind' or 'blue, heroic and confident'. There's a long way to go before it’s inclusive, both for the end wearer and the garment maker too. At Ducky Zebra we’re passionate about creating fun, sustainable kids' clothes that promote gender equality for everybody.


5 Tips For Inspiring Inclusivity in Children

1. Lead By Example 

Children are like detectives, observing our every move, and learning by example. By modelling inclusive language, attitudes and actions you can help instil these values of acceptance and respect in your child. 

Even small changes in your language can have a big impact. For example,

  • Use ‘folks’ or ‘everyone’ rather than gendered terms such as ‘guys’ and ‘girls’
  • Use inclusive language when referring to another child’s family. For instance, ask “What time is Evie’s parent coming to collect her?” rather than asking what time her mum will be arriving. 
  • Use non-gendered occupational terms, such as:
    • Businessperson rather than businessman 
    • Flight attendant rather than air stewardess
    • Postal worker rather than postman

    2. Promote Empathy 

    When children develop the skill of empathy, they are more likely to be inclusive and show compassion and care towards people from different backgrounds. There are a number of ways you can help promote empathy, including:

    • Stepping into the shoes of others: Through the stories you tell and the questions you ask, you can help children to understand that everyone experiences the world differently. Ask questions such as, "How do you think your friend felt when you shared your toy with them?" or “How do you think Grandma felt when we left her house?”. These types of questions can help children to imagine how others might feel in different situations. 
    • Read books that promote empathy: Choose books that explore themes of empathy and kindness. Discuss the characters' emotions and perspectives to help children develop these skills.
    • Acknowledge and validate feelings: Help children recognise and express their own emotions, and validate their feelings by acknowledging them. By understanding their own emotions, they will be better equipped to understand the emotions of others. 
    • Celebrate acts of kindness: Recognise and celebrate acts of kindness and empathy in children. Highlighting these positive behaviours reinforces their importance and encourages children to continue practising empathy in their daily lives. At Ducky Zebra we’re big fans of celebrating kindness and have certificates you can download and print for the occasion. 

    3. Enjoy Diverse Books and TV Programmes

    Encourage your child to explore different cultures, traditions and perspectives through the books and TV programmes they watch. This will help to broaden their understanding and encourage empathy towards those from different backgrounds. We love:

    • Andrea Beaty, who writes books such as ‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ and ‘Aaron Slator, Illustrator’
    • Butterfly Books, who have a range of titles such as ‘My Mummy is a Firefighter’ and ‘My Daddy is a Nurse’ 
    • Ibtihaj Muhammad, who writes The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family and The Kindest Red: A Story of Hijab and Friendship
    • Rachel Bright, author of Gail the Snail, The Lion Inside and The Koala Who Could

    If your child loves a story that isn’t particularly diverse or inclusive (‘Dear Zoo’ for instance, where every animal is male) consider switching the pronouns,  or using it as an opportunity to start a conversation … which leads us nicely onto our next point.

    4. Encourage Critical Thinking 

    The skill of critical thinking can inspire children to question biases and societal norms, allowing them to be more inclusive. Asking simple questions can help foster this skill from a young age. For instance:

    • “Did you notice every animal in ‘Dear Zoo’ is male? I wonder why, given half of all animals are female?”
    • “I wonder why so many clothes for girls are pink and blue for boys? It seems strange when there are so many amazing colours out there!”
    • “Have you noticed most train drivers are male? I wonder why, as there are so many good female drivers out there.”

    By asking open-ended questions you can encourage children to question what they’re seeing around them, rather than accepting the status-quo.  

    5. Normalise Differences 

    Children notice differences in appearance, abilities, and behaviours from a young age. In the past, we might have been discouraged from pointing these differences out, implying they were bad or unfortunate. Rather than shutting these conversations down, you can help normalise and celebrate differences instead:

    • Provide context: By pointing out differences you can provide context and explain that everyone is unique and special. You can also stress that differences are a normal part of human life, and should be celebrated rather than judged. 
    • Promote understanding: Use these opportunities to discuss different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives to help nurture empathy and respect for others.
    • Question stereotypes and bias: By acknowledging differences, you can also address stereotypes and biases that children may encounter. Encourage them to look beyond surface-level characteristics.
    • Encourage questions: Encourage children to ask questions about the differences they notice, and use these conversations as an opportunity to learn and grow. 
    • Focus on similarities too: While it's important to acknowledge differences, also highlight similarities. Emphasise common interests, feelings and experiences to help children see past these differences.

    From promoting empathy and critical thinking to normalising differences, these are just a few ways you can inspire inclusivity in children and pave the way for a more equal future. 

    “By inspiring inclusion in children, we lay the foundation for a future where diversity is celebrated, stereotypes are shattered, and everyone has the opportunity to shine. Happy International Women’s Day!”

    Sally Dear, Founder of Ducky Zebra

    If you enjoyed what you read, do share it on social media (so others can benefit too!) and sign up to our newsletter to receive more Ducky Zebra news and articles. 

    If you've have any other tips for how we can inspire inclusion in children, pop them below in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

    Leave a comment

    All comments are moderated before being published