What Airports Can Teach Us About Inclusive Spaces

May 19, 2022

Fawzia Reza, Ed.D.

Adjunct Faculty, Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair

Illustrations of inclusive icons, featuring nonbinary, child, and handicapped icons

Organizations have started to discuss the significance of diverse and inclusive practices. After all, research has repeatedly highlighted how diverse perspectives can promote innovation, create collaboration and teamwork. While all of this is true, I often think of how inclusion is much more than allowing everyone to share their perspectives. It moves beyond the benefits found in discourse to manifest in physical spaces, even those not directly a part of common workplace culture.

As a place where people from all walks of life pass through, airports strive to accommodate the needs of many. As such, they can be great examples of ways workplaces and other physical spaces can evolve to become more inclusive.

On a trip to Puerto Rico from Los Angeles, I found myself at a stopover in Houston’s airport. There, I smiled when I noticed a dedicated and private lactating room for mothers. In many workplaces, there are no dedicated spaces exclusively for new mothers even though lactation-accommodation laws require one that isn’t simply a bathroom. Many mothers end up nursing their children in closets or bathrooms, which are not very clean or comfortable. The lactation pod in Houston’s airport allows mothers to nurse their child in a private and safe space, something that workplaces should strive to emulate.

As I arrived in Los Angeles and was exiting the airport, I noticed an all-gender bathroom. While it may have been originally designated all gender because there was space for only one bathroom at that specific location, all-gender bathrooms allow people who do not identify with binary genders to feel included and represented. Because all-gender bathrooms are still relatively rare, having an all-gender bathroom in a workplace may require some to learn a new lexicon. But it is definitely time we learn more ways to include everyone!

While inclusive spaces like these aren’t in every airport, the fact that some airports are making these intentional decisions is a great first step. From these places, we can learn how to become more inclusive of others by creating a space that’s accommodating and welcoming.

Help your organization be more intentional in their diversity and inclusion efforts. Learn more about American College of Education’s MBA or Micro-credential in Diversity and Inclusion.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Fawzia Reza, Ed.D.
Fawzia Reza, Ed.D., Adjunct Faculty, Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair

Dr. Reza received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in May 2013. She serves as the Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Advisor at the American College of Education, and also teaches courses in education.

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