On July 12th, AWE New York Leader, Judy Jackson, Global Chief Talent Officer at Wunderman, moderated a fantastic panel, called Achieving Liftoff: Leveraging the Power of Diversity and Inclusion to Boost Your Brand at the Ace Hotel New York. Among the four panelists was AWE Emeritus Leader Cathy Gutierrez, Senior Human Resources Executive and AWE Emeritus Leader, Agnes Chapski, Senior GM and Sales Executive.
The goal of the discussion was to dig into tangible ways to leverage inclusion and diversity for positive business development, relationship management, and customer retention. The panelists represented varying client/customer focused brands from Glossier to Audible, and varied industries from PR to publishing companies. The panelists eloquently spoke on the intersection of successful branding and D&I - from the company's origin to bringing the vision to fruition and how the people you hire, the priorities you set, the customers you target, and the stories you weave with the communities in which you serve are integral.
The panel attracted close to 100 guests from senior executives and company leaders to junior folks and people pivoting in their careers. The women on the panel brought a truly complementary mix of insights and communication styles from the genuine, warm, even-keeled, matter-of-fact, and witty, to the anecdotal, tangible and cautionary. They focused on truly actionable items challenging attendees to bring back to their own companies. There were many profound moments (especially as race was a key focus) and a perfect sprinkling of wit and humor.
The evening's takeaways included:
1. Diversity programs have a higher likelihood of succeeding when driven by C-suite leaders, not human resources.
2. Steering committees to lead on diversity may create a lack of ownership and unintentionally diffuse impact.
3. There are tools to assist in "blind" interviewing but training in unconscious bias is a crucial part of the hiring and evaluation process.
4. Companies can follow the great examples of organizations like Starbucks and Salesforce to be more publicly open in acknowledging what they want to achieve around D&I (i.e. admitting when there are setbacks).
5. While sexism and racism are fully in the ether as biases to confront, there still exist more "accepted" biases like ageism, which should also be a focus of the work of organizations.
Judy Jackson provided a strikingly beautiful metaphor for D&I: Diversity is being asked to the dance, Inclusion is being asked to actually dance once there, and True Inclusion is when you know the steps to the dance that everyone is doing and you feel comfortable joining in and like you belong.
Diversity and inclusion is not just about getting under-represented folks in the room, it's about creating a culture where diverse perspectives are sought after. Folks need to be valued enough to be taught the dance.