Utah D&I officers discuss how companies can be more inclusive
This month, Utah Business partnered with Holland & Hart to host a roundtable event featuring Utah’s diversity and inclusion leaders to discuss how businesses can act intentionally to make their cultures more inclusive. Moderated by James Jackson, III, founder of the Utah Black Chamber, here are a few highlights from the event.
How can companies be more welcoming?
Adrienne Andrews | Assistant VP & Chief Diversity Officer | Weber State University
The first thing that comes to mind is doing a climate study, an evaluation of where we are. If we are willing to take that deep dive and actually reach out to the entire team, we’ll [find all of those] gaps.
Second, we have to actually read it and act on it. And that means not putting it in a drawer and checking it off a list and saying, “Well, we did that.” Because institutions and systems and structures do not change on their own. And most of those things were not built with inclusivity in mind.
And so, if we move forward with a lens that allows us to unpack that, deconstruct what has been there, and reconstruct it in a way that is welcoming and inclusive for all, then suddenly we’ve got transformation and possibility that will allow us to do untold things in any of the industries or organizations that we work in.
Rob Moolman | Executive Director | Utah Pride Center
You’ve got to do the work with your leadership teams to go, “Hold on a second. We’re not getting a full picture, because we don’t have a full set of ideas and voices and perspectives at this table.”
Emma Houston | Training Development Facilitator | Salt Lake County Government, Human Resources
When we talk about how we recruit within the state of Utah, we normally recruit to communities that we are familiar with, that we are comfortable with, that we go to on a regular basis. So if we’re talking about being intentional, we need to look at our policies, but also look at our practices on the work that we do, the circles that we engage in, and how we do referrals.
But when we are talking about how we support individuals from different backgrounds, from different ethnicities, from different identities, are we actively listening to those individuals? How are we incorporating them into the dialogue so that we can also learn? It’s one thing to ask someone to educate us, it’s another thing for us to educate ourselves. Until we actively listen with good intention to move the dial to change, we will continue having these conversations.
Isaac Ewaleifoh | Founder | National Association of Black Accountants, SLC
We all know that talent is everywhere, but oftentimes opportunity isn’t. So leaders in their respective organizations should look at performance data on the ratio level and see if the Black and Hispanic populations within their group are disproportionately on the lower end of the performance rating system. Because that has real implications for advancement opportunities, for promotions, for compensation, and also in most firms for even equity participation, which drives significant yields and outcomes for those individuals who are the cost of their care.
It’s not enough to just say, I’ll donate this amount to NAACP or to the Black Chamber. What are you doing for your Black employee population? How are you ensuring that they’re getting the best careers at your firm and that they are actually getting compensated well and they’re growing their wealth?
Lauren Walker | Chief Supply Chain Officer | Young Living Essential Oils
We’ve opened up many channels within our organization to start with the listening process. And it starts with also engaging in dialogue that we then share with our employees, with our member base, with our communities around the globe, that we spend a lot of time working to support and providing venues for people to be open to listening.
We do a town hall every single week with all of our 3,300 employees around the globe, and we started very intentional conversations about some of the things that people may have experienced. We also reached out to our member base. We wanted to give them a voice. And so last night we actually had a panel with our African American leaders around the country, and it was phenomenal. Our entire executive team all joined and we were there listening and just understanding. So now, we can start to make change that has a positive impact on these individuals.
Layne Kertamus | Founder | AsperianNation.com
I would urge [executives] to consider that diversity and inclusion and the solution set, as well as our respective shares of the issues and the problems, belong to everyone. We each have to own our bad corporate policies, our emergent culture that’s perhaps highly discriminatory. We need to be vulnerable and to have a series of conversations that discuss the truths that really operate in this company.
We can talk about diversity. We can look at inclusion and discuss, “Well, what is that really?” And when we talk about diversity/inclusion, do we want a greater variety of ethnicities and sexual orientations represented? Do we want a more uniform distribution of organizational resources, such as information and opportunities for mentoring and exposure to senior-level leaders? Or do we want to explore more along the quality arena to pay equity?
Michelle Love-Day | Consultant | Jordan School District
Companies need to review their nondisclosure statement and put in place an anti-discriminatory policy. If it’s not all-inclusive, that’s where the problem starts.
A lot of companies do a great job of having these unconscious bias trainings, but those trainings don’t prove to be effective if there are systemic instructional issues that are in place that perpetuate in the workplace. They should just manifest at a greater level. Forbes did an article about this last December and said, ‘There’s a reason why your unconscious bias trainings are not working. You already have a hostile work environment. This is just a Band-Aid and you need to really address what’s happening.’
Sara Jones | CEO | InclusionPro
For many of these organizations, because they have such low diversity, they are needing to seek external resources. And they’re seeing the need to reach out externally because they literally cannot go to their employee base to ask important questions because the diversity simply isn’t there. We’re about 30 percent ethnically diverse in the State of Utah. There are a lot of leaders in Utah that do not understand that because their workplace is three to five percent ethnically diverse. Industry leaders are becoming much more aware that they can’t be completely disconnected from that.
Sheila Bowmer | Marketing Manager | Snell & Wilmer
One of the cornerstones of Snell & Wilmer’s credo is our long tradition of community engagement and leadership. In difficult times such as these, the power of listening and learning cannot be overstated. To this end, in consultation with our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, we launched a series of conversations with prominent diverse leaders to help us better understand the challenges we are facing as we collectively seek positive paths forward. Our initial event in mid-June featured Phoenix police chief Jeri Williams, one of only a handful of African American police chiefs in the nation, and a mother of two African American sons. It was a memorable conversation, marked by Chief Williams’ remarkable transparency when addressing difficult questions from attendees.
Dr. Tamara Stevenson | Diversity Officer | Westminster College
One of the earlier comments mentioned a climate survey in your organization. It’s important to distinguish climate versus culture. We talk about organizational culture. Culture means a pattern of shared basic assumptions that have been invented, discovered, or developed and seeks to manage or control how people act or behave. It is commonly shared beliefs, norms of behavior, thinking, and emotional intelligence, routines, rituals, traditions, etc.
Think about climate as the mood or the attitude of the organization. How are different people experiencing the atmosphere of the organization at any given moment? It is the current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of those within the organization and beyond the organization. We’re all experiencing the climate differently. For example, today, I’m not exactly sure what the exact temperature is, but for me, it’s a little chilly. So I have more clothes on, but someone else might think this is the perfect weather to have on some shorts. [This is an example of] two different experiences within the same climate.
When those differences are exposed, it now becomes a question of, do we need equal attention or do we need equitable attention? Equal attention, everyone gets the same thing. Equitable attention, everyone gets what they need for everyone to meet to the same level. That’s where we get to how resources are distributed within the organization―any organization. These issues aren’t new. This global pandemic is exposing our already existing inequities. So we need new, multifaceted approaches to addressing these issues.
Trina Limpert | Founder | RizeNext
I think a lot of times and a lot of companies in the corporate world were setting up employee resource groups or providing safe spaces for those to come together. What I’ve seen is that it also creates silos and it’s not really creating the opportunities that we would like them to have when those approaches are taken.
When you’re working with leaders and setting up employee resource groups and starting to create awareness, one of the worst things you can do is set those up and then not show up as a leader. Be engaged, not just as a listener or mentor, but as a sponsor. What can you do to help? Broaden your network, and then also creating the opportunities, being an advocate for somebody, helping bring them up in their career, being there and being an advocate and vocal about helping them that way and understanding what their needs are and where they might be a good fit and how to promote that.
Celina Milner | Senior Policy Advisor | Salt Lake City
I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say, what can we do? What do we do right now? And I’ve told them, if you don’t have a diversity and inclusion policy right now, you can’t just throw one together. You need to sit in the pain and feel it with others. Communities of color are very much hurting and our colleagues of color are hurting as well. Listen authentically to those with lived experiences.
Lianna Kinard | VP of Marketing | Buckner
It can feel overwhelming trying to change and adapt so quickly. We need to first start with ourselves. Two thoughts on actions we can take internally are first: Start where you are. Do our mission and values align with our culture and actions? Do we celebrate diversity and inclusion? And second: Pledge to be better. What can we do to promote equality, diversity, and inclusivity? How can we measure our efforts?
After we analyze where we are and pledge to do better externally, we need to provide opportunities and resources. Are we recruiting and attracting diverse talent? And are we listening to the needs of our employees/potential hires and providing the resources to support them?
Darlene McDonald | Chair | Utah Black Roundtable
One of the things that we have to ask as we give training sessions is about whether or not the employees feel safe within those corporations when we talk about diversity, inclusion, and even surveys. We must be impeccable, not only with our words but also with our actions so that our employees know that we really mean what we say.
You have leaders within corporations that will ask for diversity and inclusion training. They’ll send memos [that say] we care about what’s happening. But the actions of the individual stakeholders of those corporations say something very different. These leaders have created a climate that is not trustworthy. And you have employees that see that and they will not be honest for fear of retaliation from the corporations.
Troy Williams | Executive Director | Equality Utah
We look back 51 years ago to a small bar in Greenwich Village, New York, where LGBTQ patrons were the constant victims of police brutality. Through unrest, through uprising, can come positive social change. So my message to my white friends here is do not let the burden of social change rest on the shoulders of brown and Black Utahns. It is our responsibility right now to stand up, to talk to the governor, to talk to our legislative leaders, to talk to the executives in the C-suite and all the CEOs and all the companies. Don’t fear it. Turn into it. Lean into it.
Elizabeth Kronk Warner | Dean | SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah
In my own personal experience, trainings are not always helpful because either you’re preaching to the choir or you’re kind of entrenching people who might be antagonistic. And so we have encouraged our department chairs to come up with what we’ve called bias disruptor, tangible things that they’re going to do in their units to really combat these issues of racism and sexism and homophobia, to make their work environments better, more inclusive places. We brought back past members of our communities to talk about their specific instances. Having that perspective from people who recently were part of the organization to come back and say, no, these are actually some areas that we need to work on, have been really helpful.
Sui Lang L. Panoke | Founder | Rethink International
Our mission is to challenge people to rethink how and what they think. And that is deeply steeped in the benefits that diversity inclusion strategies can bring to your organization. I can’t, as a facilitator, come in and move the needle on unconscious bias for you. You have to do the work. And I joke with my colleagues about this, but I myself, as a trainer and facilitator, design these trainings because I need them. And so, I also take the approach and encourage other people to step aside, step away from the kind of expert in the room speaking to an audience model, and more of a partnership model in terms of learning. We are all here to learn together and whoever is leading that conversation is not exempt.
When a company puts out a statement that they stand against racism and they stand with Black Lives Matter, what actions should they be taking to back that up?
Dr. Tamara Stevenson | Diversity Officer | Westminster College
I teach a course at Westminster called Organizational Communication and we talk about how organizations function, how they operate. And we talk about how an organization is like a body and there are subsystems within the body. So, in some instances, you can tell, for example, if a person is sick because there are some serious, obvious things going on visually that you can see.
But then there are some that are not readily seen on the outside until they take a significant toll. And that’s where we are right now with organizations. We are not seeing the sickness of organizations. And that’s why statements are falling on ears and eyes that are not really interested, because they don’t believe it. The credibility isn’t there.
Going forward, it’s time for organizations of any kind to think about being more vulnerable with their missteps, about how they have not done the work in-depth to address inequities in their organizations, and back that up with some data and next steps that directly address those equities, both internally and externally.
Engels Tejeda | Trial & Bankruptcy Lawyer | Holland & Hart
One common value that our diverse workforce shares are the successes of our businesses. So the leadership should take the time to research the studies on the benefits of being, take the time to know what those studies say, understand how those studies translate to your business and have top executives illustrate with carefully considered examples how D&I affects business. If you’re struggling to build this in a meaningful way, that is not just superficial lines, then seek help from experts.
It comes down to ownership. We should be very conscious about how we give ownership to folks from underrepresented backgrounds in our organizations. And that doesn’t just mean actual equity ownership in your company. I mean, ownerships of projects, of things that are important to the company, whether it is an initiative, anything. Give people ownership and give people the opportunity to fail.