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Diversity Speaker Spotlight

Jessica Welch
Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

The Many Faces of Diversity

When we hear diversity, inclusion, and equity we often think of racial and ethnic diversity, but there are so many facets to diversity that have not been in the public eye as much lately. We gathered the ideas of three of our top diversity speakers to bring you a more comprehensive look at diversity in the workplace. 

Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins

2021253142123Headshot2-17-.png (15 KB)Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins is one of America’s leading voices in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as a Historian, Sociologist, & Social Epidemiologist. In his keynote “I Ain’t Woke, I Just Can’t Sleep,” Dr. Jenkins melds his knowledge of the medical field with an examination of racism in America to explain how and why it is so prevalent and seemingly unstoppable. 

The title refers to what he calls “American logic,” or the idea that we understand a problem, but do not act on it and solve the problem. 

He says it is a similar dilemma to how America approached smoking and cancer. We realized there was a connection between smoking and cancer in the 1950s, but it took decades for people in the 1980s to finally understand and bring lawsuits to the tobacco companies claiming they were responsible for deaths. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that researchers actively spoke out against the tobacco industry and definitively said smoking causes cancer. We know the research took 50 years to catch up with the people, and it was in part due to the power and resources of the tobacco companies. 

For decades people knew the truth; we linked the research between smoking and cancer, but it took us 50 years to apply our logic to the deaths. American logic doesn’t follow through or solve the problem...at least for 50 years.

To prove this is the case with racial disparities in healthcare, Dr. Jenkins conducted three searches on PubMed.com, one to pull all reports with the words racial health disparities, one including the word prevention, and one including the word intervention. He found we talk about and explain these health disparities often, but there was very little research that addresses prevention or intervention, showcasing our lack of willingness to actually solve the problem. 

Dr. Jenkins says we consistently define racism, but we don’t work to dismantle it. People everywhere are waking up to the idea that the American system is built to disadvantage Black people, yet all we’re doing is talking about it. In his keynote he goes on to outline different ways companies can make a difference and move past Racism 101 talks and on to prevention and intervention. 

Spencer West, Disabilities Advocate

2020246170204IMG-0941-square.jpg (85 KB)Spencer West had his lower body amputated from the torso down when he was five years old. But he says physical challenges were never the hardest thing he experienced. Despite knowing his own personal worth and coming from a family that encouraged him to reach beyond his fullest potential, he struggled his whole life to prove his worth, specifically in the job market. 

Even as young as 15 years old, he experienced workplace discrimination on his first job hunt. It wasn’t until he was directed to an employer known for his advocacy that he felt his skills were acknowledged. The employer saw his people skills, his adeptness, his drive and asked, “what do we need to do to make this work for you?” 

As an adult, he faced the same discrimination until he came across a nonprofit called WE Charity, where once again he was met with an attitude of acceptance and appreciation. These two organizations did not look past his disability; Spencer says, it is not something that should be ignored, instead, it should be embraced. But they were able to see past it to acknowledge his skill set and what he has to offer—which is a lot by the way. 

Spencer has brought in over a million dollars for the foundation since he started working there. His unique creativity and innovative ideas have helped him raise money for all different kinds of causes and even took him on a journey to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and raise money for clean water in East Africa—something only he could do for the organization. 

Spencer argues there is no downside to hiring someone with a disability. For 59% of disabled hires, there was no money spent on accommodations and for the small percentage who needed them, the price was $500 or less. Not to mention there’s government financial aid offered for these kinds of accommodations. 

There may be no downside but there sure is a big upside. Differently-abled people represent about a trillion dollars of untapped market segments. By hiring someone with disabilities you are telling this demographic that you care, you are on their side, and you will fight for them. Hiring people with disabilities will not only bring more creativity to your team with a new perspective, open your market up to a new demographic, but it’s also, simply put by Spencer, the right thing to do. 

Phil Gwoke, Bridging Generational Divides

2021082191326Headshot2-3-.png (16 KB)Phil Gwoke Generational Consultant dedicated to bridging the divide between generations in the workplace. His biggest focus is on communication. While there is a natural tension between different generations due to societal shifts, collaboration is possible through better communication. 

Phil believes that whether you’re young or old, a Boomer or a Gen Z, there is a place for everyone in all companies. Each generation offers something unique. Baby Boomers have years of experience that can guide a team during difficulties they have already experienced in their careers. Whereas Gen Z’s can bring new approaches and innovative solutions to long-term problems. Both are valuable and should never be excluded from an opportunity or a conversation. 

The key to engaging both ends of the age spectrum and creating collaboration is opening up a dialog with healthy communication. We all communicate in the same way that we want to be communicated to, which can cause friction since each generation has its own preferred methods. Understanding the values of the person you’re communicating with and understanding how it differs from your values will help you approach a colleague in a more open manner. This applies to the individual as well as their generation. 

A great example of how generational values differ lies in this question: When your boss says “jump” you say…? 

Baby Boomers will answer “how high?” Whereas, newer generations like Millennials and Gen Z’s will most likely ask “why?” To someone with a traditionalist mindset, this may come off as rude, but if you understand that newer generations value autonomy and flexibility more than previous generations it frames their answer in a different light. 

Bring Phil Gwoke to your next event to help your team bridge any generational divides and build a stronger, more cohesive team. 

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