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  • Writer's pictureJulia Smit

Insights from an Exchange Theatre: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

According to CNCB, nearly 80% of workers report they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion. Therefore, organizations must grasp the essence of creating such an environment. Despite efforts to build successful diverse teams, creating an inclusive environment remains a challenge for many companies. With Exchange Theatre, organizations can address sensitive topics such as cultural dynamics, performance appraisal and equity in the workplace. In this article, I will pull back the curtains and share an “on-set” experience of an Exchange Theatre session facilitated by Cultural Impact and KL Shakespeare. And... action!


Exchange Theatre at Woman Leadership Conference

Cultural Impact, in collaboration with KL Shakespeare, is actively driving change through Exchange Theatre. Together, they have helped many organizations, teams, institutions and individuals exchange views on sensitive issues.

This was also the case last Tuesday during the Woman Leadership Conference held at the Asia School of Business.


As an intern at Cultural Impact, I had the unique opportunity to participate in this impactful event and see my colleagues in action during the Exchange Theatre session. I am excited to share my first-hand experience as a spectator of this interactive theatrical performance. The topic of the session was Give equity a chance and consisted of three different parts:


Part 1: Watch

As the lights dimmed, the actors embarked on stage. The scenario evolved around three managers brainstorming to generate more traffic to their property roadshow.


Amy, though not in a higher position, naturally took the lead of the meeting. She strongly supported the ideas of her colleague Micheal, praising his presentation skills and assigning him additional responsibilities.

Conversely, whenever Katherine, the third manager, attempted to share her ideas, she faced interruptions, dismissiveness, or even mockery.


Part 2: Discuss

After watching this problematic scene, we were invited to discuss and debate, based on what we just witnessed. When questioned about the plausibility of this scenario, the audience emphatically responded with a resounding "YES," affirming this situation is likely happening in real-life.

Together, we pointed out that Katherine must feel left out, embarrassed and dismissed.

Some specifically pointed out the lack of opportunity for Katherine to contribute to the conversation:

“She must not feel safe sharing her ideas when she is constantly interrupted”. Others mentioned Katherine needs to stand her ground by stating: “She should speak up” and “she needs to be more confident in herself”.


"The session ignited meaningful conversations about cultural dynamics and equity in the workplace."

These comments led to some disagreement. One spectator shared her opinion about treating diverse individuals: “I believe everyone is different and we need to respect that. Micheal is very good at presenting ideas and getting everyone’s attention. However, Katherine needs more space to share her ideas as she will not demand this space herself. I don’t think it is fair to just tell her to speak up”.


Others backed this up by stating that it is not always easy to speak up: “In some organizations it is not okay to show disagreement with your peers or boss being present” and “Katherine could be embarrassed as her colleague makes fun of her ideas in front of others”. The exchange of views revealed the silent struggles faced by individuals like Katherine, who, due to cultural differences, personality or organizational hierarchies, find it challenging to express themselves freely.


Part 3: Play

In the final part of the session, the actors performed the same scene. The audience had the power to pause the scene at any time, step on stage, and try to influence the outcome. In our attempts to step into the shoes of Amy, Michael, and Katherine, we learned that genuine understanding demands empathy, active listening and a willingness to challenge assumptions.

Moreover, interacting with the actors on stage offered a unique opportunity for self-reflection.


"In our attempts to step into the shoes of Amy, Michael, and Katherine, we learned that genuine understanding requires not only empathy and active listening but also a willingness to challenge assumptions and norms."

By actively participating in the scene, the participants gained insights into the challenges and emotions of the characters they were embodying.


It created a safe yet dynamic space for exploration and reflection, which ignited meaningful conversations amongst both the participants on stage and the spectators in the audience.


By engaging in these conversations, we worked towards a mutual understanding of an inclusive workplace that recognizes the value of every individual.



A successful workplace relies on inclusivity

Through this Exchange Theatre session, I came to understand that achieving equity in the workplace demands more than just acknowledging its importance. It necessitates a genuine effort to dismantle ingrained patterns and biases. It calls for open conversations that honour diverse perspectives, and it requires a commitment to actively listen and learn.

Would you like to host an Exchange Theatre session to spark impactful discussions and set the first step in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment? Reach out to us using the button below.


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