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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not just words but values that are exemplified through our culture at Cadence. In the DEI@Cadence blog series, you’ll find a community where employees share their perspectives and experiences. By providing a glimpse of their personal stories, we celebrate our One Cadence—One Team culture and the importance of sustaining it as we learn from diverse perspectives.
“We pride ourselves on creating an environment where diversity, equity, and inclusion are celebrated and embraced. This is core to our One Cadence—One Team culture.” - Anirudh Devgan, president and CEO of Cadence
An essential part of the One Cadence culture is to accept each other’s differences and respect them, which means to avoid offending or hurting others. I have lived a relatively charmed life. I cannot readily recall a situation where someone was inadvertently disrespectful or offensive. However, I have also realized that the measurement of what is offensive cannot be what I don’t find offensive.
But how do we know what could hurt or offend others?
One way is to simply ask. I have found that it is critical to ask people with whom I am collaborating about their opinions in a true spirit of desiring to understand a phrase, term, or action. Just because I am not offended, or even because a majority are not offended, does not make the phrase/term/action acceptable.
In one recent instance, I realized that a phrase I used in my youth could be hurtful or offensive to others. For most of my life, I have owned cars that have lacked reliability. Because of this, I have often traveled with a few spare tools and parts in the trunk. And if something didn’t sound right, or the car wouldn’t start, I would open the engine compartment and see if I could understand the problem. I often stated that I would "check under the hood" or "look under the hood" (i.e., to understand what was wrong).
I’m a part of the Words Matter Initiative, a Cadence-wide effort to encourage respectful language in our code and communication. “Under the hood” came up in our efforts to research phrases for consideration for the initiative, so I wanted to understand the context and why this could be offensive. I wanted to understand the story from another’s point of view.
I don’t know who brought up the phrase for consideration; however, I found someone who could explain their interpretation of it. This person is passionate about cars, like me, and understands my interpretation, BUT they are also someone who has been the target of racism. This individual explained an alternate meaning. The phrase has reference to removing the hood worn by members of racist groups who often wear hoods to hide their identity. By hearing another’s interpretation, I could understand how this phrase would elicit emotions and meanings that I never intended. What I say is not nearly as important as what people hear.
In many engineering communication protocols, communication requires both a transmitter and a receiver. Most protocols also ensure that there isn’t data loss between the transmitter and receiver (i.e., the message sent is the same as the message received). When humans communicate, we should strive for the same: to ensure that when we are either talking or listening, or writing or reading, we are not confusing the message by introducing a term that others may interpret with a bias that could change the message (or worse yet, harm a relationship). One protocol that people often use to encourage accurate communication is reflective listening—actively listening and restating what the other person said to confirm understanding.
The biggest challenge therefore where communication hurts a relationship is not when someone is offended by something I say and voice their displeasure but when I offend someone who doesn’t say anything. In the latter situation, the relationship is damaged, with minimal chance for repair and change. And that is something we must all avoid because our differences in background, thought, and ideas make us stronger. By listening to all the ideas from a diverse group, we start with a much larger solution set and, therefore, can find the best solutions. We must ensure that our language does not unconsciously prune that solution set.
As a member of the Cadence Academic Network team, I get the opportunity to meet amazing diverse students and passionate educators. While talking with these persons, whether virtually, in person, or through this blog, I represent Cadence and cause those future customers or employees to form an opinion of who Cadence is. I have a responsibility, as we all do, to ensure that our communication demonstrates the respectful, inclusive One Cadence—One Team we are, and being aware of the words we use is an important step in this journey.
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