Discussions about inclusion in professional settings tend to emphasize the importance of recognizing and celebrating diverse characteristics like gender, race, and culture. A conversation that’s not had as frequently is one surrounding size inclusion.
The truth is that size bias exists in all aspects of society. Whether it’s a conscious practice or not, many employees experience the stigma of being overweight in their workplace every single day. Sizeism describes any prejudice or discrimination targeted at individuals based on their physical size, particularly in relation to their weight.
Every body is unique and valuable. Promoting body size diversity in the workplace aims to dispel the idea that certain characteristics are associated with what people view as a more “optimal” body.
Incorporating size diversity into your company’s culture is fundamental to fostering inclusion. Here are 3 areas where your organization can begin to cultivate a size-inclusive culture right now:
1. Workplace Accommodations
Your overall workplace atmosphere and facilities should be a place where all employees feel comfortable and safe. This means taking the proper steps to ensure the space is accommodating for fat bodies.
Is your office equipment size-inclusive and comfortable? Consider investing in furniture that is adjustable to accommodate all body shapes and sizes. This also includes the layout and design of a space.
To avoid an employee being singled out or stigmatized in front of colleagues, proactivity is key. Make sure this is a standard that is set up from the beginning so employees aren’t uncomfortable while waiting for appropriate equipment to arrive.
Are your staff required to wear uniforms or follow a particular dress code? Uniforms should be available and easily accessible in an extended range of sizes for both men and women. If uniforms aren’t provided but a specific dress code is required, ensure employees are given ample time to prepare.
2. Policies and Benefits
Do your policies address size discrimination? Your benefit packages may be contributing to sizeism, and you may not even know it. If this is the case, diving into your policies is a great first step.
A common policy that contributes to weight discrimination is travel. If you have roles in your organization that require frequent flying, does your travel policy include the purchase of a business class seat or an adjacent seat in cases where a person may require it? Have seat belt extenders on hand in your office so employees do not have to purchase their own. The booking and travel process in general should be simple and shame-free.
Many organizations have company wellness initiatives, encouraging employee wellness through weight loss competitions, healthy eating, and fitness challenges. Consider adopting more accessible strategies to promote the health and well-being of your team. Rather than potentially affecting self-worth through peer pressure, try promoting healthy practices that all individuals, no matter their weight, can participate in.
3. Training and Education
Anti-fat bias can’t be solved with just a single action. Leadership teams must be active participants and be willing to invest the time to address size inclusivity and integrate it into any overall DEI strategies that exist.
Consider the opinions of your staff. Send out a survey and invite all employees to inform HR if any adjustments are needed to improve the size inclusivity culture. These actions benefit not only overweight employees but also tall people, people with back problems, people with disabilities, people with mobility challenges, or anyone who needs some accommodations in any area.
Teach your employees about the stigma around weight. Show them how to recognize how anti-fat bias and thin body ideals remain ingrained in everyday life and language. Make it clear that ideals and language that are not inclusive will not be tolerated.
On both internal and external levels, inclusive imagery is important. Representing fat bodies in any educational or marketing materials shows that people of all sizes are important and valued within the organization.
MT Consulting Group is here to help if you’re looking for specific strategies to meet the needs of your organization. If you’re not sure if some of the policies that currently exist in your organization are unconsciously perpetuating discrimination, please reach out.
If you want to further your DEI journey, check out our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Foundations training, or Coaching, for a safe space to foster growth and learning. Contact us to bring our size-inclusion workshops to your organization!