CPBJ seminar explores achieving diversity and inclusion in your business

Ioannis Pashakis//March 30, 2021

CPBJ seminar explores achieving diversity and inclusion in your business

Ioannis Pashakis//March 30, 2021

Sarah Taylor, president and CEO of positive steps in Rochester, New York.

Businesses must acknowledge disparities in their workforce, be authentic in the change they want to make, be accountable for that change and be prepared to take action if they want a diverse and inclusionary workforce, said Sara Taylor, president and CEO of Rochester, New York-based Positive Steps.

Taylor, the keynote speaker at CPBJ’s annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit, spoke to an audience of midstate leaders about the steps a business should take if they want to hire more black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)  employees, benefit from having a diverse workforce and keep those employees for the long term.

“In this journey, everyone has a role,” said Taylor. “We know that workplace culture matters and we know it’s an important factor when an employee joins your organization.”

The virtual event focused on Taylor’s four A’s of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): acknowledgement, authenticity, accountability and action.

Businesses need to acknowledge the aspects of their work culture that may be harming their BIPOC employees such as other employees using trigger words and microaggressions on their coworkers.

“We will need to first talk about acknowledging disparities rooted in racism and bigotry that often drives perceptions in the workplace,” she said, noting that 20% of LGBT Americans says they’ve experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The number increases to 32% for people of color.

Asian Americans have been the subject of such microaggressions in the past year, Taylor said. Some 39% of Asian Americans say their coworkers have acted uncomfortably around them as a result of stereotypes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Leadership teams looking to put DEI practices in place must also be authentic about their efforts. Taylor said that a business needs to be intentional about change and make it part of their corporate DNA, which starts by not only putting DEI practices in place companywide, but by targeting an organization’s “gatekeepers.”

“I want to talk about organizational gatekeepers; those that control access from one point to another,” said Taylor. “Human resources representatives and staffing managers are gatekeepers that see a lot and hear a lot and they know where the problems start in the organization. They know the pay inequalities when someone is brought on at one salary.”

Following Taylor’s presentation, four DEI leaders from The Giant Company, WellSpan Health, Penn State Health and McNees, Wallace and Nurick, took part in a panel to talk about how their organizations have shifted to more inclusionary practices.

Making permanent changes to foster diversity, equity and inclusion, requires buy-in from company executives who understand how crucial it is to have a diversified workspace, said Aaysha Noor, head of diversity and inclusion at The Giant Company. And statistics, help to make that case.

“Teams which are gender diverse perform 25% better compared to” she said. “Diverse inclusive culture teams are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and are twice as likely to meet or beat financial goals. Who doesn’t want to do that?”

The diversity of professionals can be so important to some clients that a law firm can win a request for proposal for having a high rate of diverse attorneys, said Robert Weishaar Jr., who co-chairs the Energy & Environmental Law Practice Group at McNees, Wallace and Nurick.

“Our clients are requiring us to share data about the diversity of our professionals,” he said. “For some clients we see it in individual engagement letters where we have to identify the gender and race of our attorneys.”

Organization must then be accountable for their DEI plans with metrics and measurements in place to weigh its success. To ensure they are making progress, Penn State Health made DEI a goal in line with its patient satisfaction and financial goals, said Lynette Chappel Williams, chief diversity officer at the Hershey-based health system.

“Thanks to the leadership of (Steve Massini, CEO of Penn State Health), who was adamant in making sure we were creating a respectful and inclusionary environment, we established diversity and inclusion as a goal,” she said, adding that the system has implemented initiatives to keep its workforce engaged in those goals.