CommUNITY Conversations: Diversity Equity & Inclusion in the Workplaceby Mary Clymer on December 1, 2020
CommUNITY Conversations: Diversity Equity & Inclusion in the workplace
THURSDAY DECEMBER 3RD 2020 4:00 PM — 5:00 PM
Join Equity Consultants Benita Horn and Sean Greenlee this Thursday, Dec. 3rd, as they discuss what lies ahead for 2021. In this open forum, they will discuss the opportunities for resources, training, education, and conversation to be available and the directions we are hoping to head.
The last two CommUNITY Conversations can be watched on the Renton Chambers YouTube channel and I encourage you to watch. They are full of a wide range of thought and perspective.
What shines through is everyone showing up as themself. No one person can fully represent a whole community and that is exactly what these outstanding guests remind us.
“Everyone comes from their own angle or course”, said guest James Alberson owner and Principal of Top Tier Training & Development, Inc. He put it this way in the last Conversation. “As you get older you have to make sure that you don't get biased in any way. You have your own experiences and I think we all bring our own interpretations to this conversation.”
The point of these conversations led by Benita Horn, the Inclusion & Equity Consultant for the City of Renton, is to create a safe space for an open conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
In the first discussion, Benita and her guests laid out a list of definitions to help guide the conversations.
To recap those definitions
Diversity is the representation of all our differences collectively and individually. Be that race, gender, sexual orientation, political and religious preferences, socioeconomic status, etc. Diversity in the workplace should showcase a wide range of interests, backgrounds, experiences all having a seat at the table.
We are all similar in different ways and diversity helps us see value in our differences.
Equity is about fair treatment. Seeing that everyone has equal access to information and resources. Not only bringing a diverse group to the table but ensuring that everyone is valued and treated with dignity and respect.
Inclusion is what builds a culture of belonging. Actively inviting and welcoming participants from all backgrounds to contribute. Inclusion means everyone's voice is valued and encouraged.
Benita posed a question to our guests and you as the listening and engaged audience.
“Tell us about the role you play in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace? Why are Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion important to you?”
Throughout these discussions, Benita, Sean, and their guests remind us that it is through exposure and conversation that prejudices melt away.
Inviting you to challenge yourself. Be an observer in your own experience. Ask yourself what you are doing to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your own life and workplace.
Kent Chamber CEO Zenovia Harris is the only Black CEO for all the Chambers in the State of Washington. She put her experience so beautifully when she was describing how knowing this made her think twice before applying for the job.
“How dare I not try to break a barrier to make it easier for someone else?”
Her thinking was that she might be walking into an unfriendly or unwelcoming environment. Putting on her consultant hat she reminds herself that she is here to show up and be seen.
Zenovia went on to say that she is full of personal bias. Understanding that this isn’t a bad thing, but rather is a gateway to understanding yourself and others. She encourages us to look to identify our own biases so we can begin to be open about them and learn from them.
Too often these conversations are met as heavy subjects. They often end with people feeling closed up out of fear of saying something ignorant. Rooms can get heated and people shut down.
These online discussions are great because it allows the viewer to listen to the needs and concerns of others without feeling vulnerable.
Being vulnerable and taking action is a part of the process though as Bennyroyce Royon reminds us.
“We must act intentionally in an informed way. It has to be action-driven.”
Bennyroyce is the artistic director of the Evergreen City Ballet. A Filipino-American who describes himself as “A Gay, Queer, Immigrant who used He, Him, They as self-describing pronouns.” letting the audience have some insight into who’s showing up for this discussion. His words were thought out and his passion bled through all he said. The biggest take-away I got from Benny was his mission statement...
“Work through your personal bias so you can understand and act from a place of kindness, empathy, and compassion towards others and myself”
A message we could all use more guidance with.
At the end of these panel discussions, others in the zoom room are invited to get involved and talk about their needs and resources.
Kim Unit was one of these zoom room participants. Her comment was about how hearing stories helps. It's the sharing that helps bind us together. In particular, she mentioned how hearing Zenovia talk about hair challenges for the black community in the workplace opened her eyes to something she never knew about. In an instant she was able to identify a space of privilege as a white woman that she had never considered.
Others in the group resonated with the story comment as well. Storytelling helps break down walls.
“We have to follow through with each other,” says Benny, “Innovation, collaboration, and community building come from this space.”
Benita closes the group discussion with a reminder that we are all in this together. To have open discussions we need to be honest with ourselves and others.
Sean Greenlee, Chamber Board member and DEI consultant for the Chamber put it this way, “We don’t know what we don’t know. These conversations shed light on helping us move forward together.”
This conversation was so engaging that I have been anxiously waiting for the next one.
Finally, it is here.
Please mark your calendars to be with us this Thursday, December 3rd from 4-5 pm.
If you are interested in being an active part of this conversation you can register in advance.
If you have questions you’d like addressed you can submit them into the comment section here or email Diane Dobson, Renton Chamber CEO.
As one of my favorite Renton art sculptures along the Cedar River Bank next to the Senior Center reminds us, “ We are all in this Boat Together.”
Renton is a diverse community and there is room for us all to have an active voice at the table. I hope to see you this Thursday as the CommUNITY discussions continue.