A member’s perspective of the Diversity & Inclusion Forum

charissa-huangAttorney Charissa Huang looked around the packed house at the Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum on November 18 and felt “a sense of relief.

As the Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Huang often feels isolated. That is not true within her firm, which actually includes Diversity & Inclusion in its organizational charter and by-laws.

Instead, Huang said, “it is not every day you get to hang out with other D&I people.”

“Diversity and Inclusion is a struggle for all organizations trying to hire diverse talent. But at the Forum, I saw that everyone is in this together. A lot of people there were interested and engaged and trying to make the workplace and the community more inclusive.”

The Chamber’s Diversity & Inclusion Forum brought together three national experts with presentations designed to encourage learning and discussion on ideas, plans and methods to promoted inclusion in the workplace.

Keynote speaker Mary-Frances Winters said, “Inclusion is about the opportunity to participate, to come to a place and feel appreciated for who you are. It should be something that is integrated into your every day.”

To be more inclusive, she explained, we need to understand ourselves first, become more self-aware. “All of us come from our own values systems and beliefs, and so do the other people whom we meet. We need to realize that, and work to break down barriers to find mutual understanding.”

Dr. Alan Richter’s breakout session, “Heads, Hearts and Hands” presented a systemic approach to understanding the cognitive, emotional and behavioral needs of people with whom we interact.

Marguerite Fletcher conducted a breakout session entitled “Diversity & Inclusion Strategies for Leaders.” She advised participants to challenge their assumptions about people who are different, conduct anonymous surveys of employee experiences with D&I and
broaden the group of people with whom we socialize at work, and network outside our organization.

Charissa Huang found especially eye-opening a breakout session she attended that challenged participants to “become” a hypothetical person from a different race or culture.

“It was interesting that people were more comfortable selecting their own race or culture and its challenges with which they were familiar.”

The learning opportunities came in discussing how personal perceptions and potential bias surfaced when people selected “identities” outside their own race or culture.

To continue your own education and growth, join the critical conversation in one of the Institute for Healing Racism: Facing Racism programs in 2017.