"Suppliers, retailers, I.T.; everything has a D.E.I. lens. It should not be a program that stands on its own. It should be integrated into everything that you do. If you do that, you will find that your businesses will be better." Michael Bach inspired the audience and business leaders at the Hampton Roads Chamber Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Forum.
The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to serve this region as an Impactful Advocate, Inspiring Ignitor, Regional Collaborator, and Powerful Economic Partner, ensuring this is a region where people of diverse backgrounds want to live, work, and play.
The Hampton Roads Chamber's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Forum on December 15 included a panelist discussion with Dr. Ron Carlee and Dr. Felicia Blow. Dr. Carlee, Director of the Center for Regional Excellence at Old Dominion University. Dr. Blow is the Vice President for Development for Hampton University. Michael Bach, Founder and C.E.O. of the Canadian Centre for Diversity, Inclusion, and Author of Birds of all Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right, was the keynote speaker.
The panel discussion focused on 'Creating an Inclusive Workplace by Overcoming Unconscious Bias.' Dr. Blow expressed that she is a result-driven person and does not believe in yelling or cursing at employees. Dr. Blow spoke on the stereotype of the perception that black women look 'angry.' Dr. Blow bravely shared the racial bias that she faced from a former college. "I was confronted when someone said, 'Felicia, you are creating a hostile environment with your behavior.' Do you know what I said to the person? I said I've been black all my life." Dr. Carlee praised Dr. Blow for sharing that story and emphasized that sharing stories like hers is a key step. "First of all, I want everyone to know that story was a gift. It came from a place of heart, and she didn't have to share it. The willingness for people, different than ourselves, to share their true experiences is one of the ways that can help us become more aware."
Dr. Carlee spoke on how unconscious biases have negatively affected those impacted. "These unconscious biases manifest themselves through words and expressions. They are unkind, hurtful, and assault us together personally."
During the Q & A session, Dr. Blow explained how she handled the unconscious bias of African American women stereotyped as 'angry' in their physical appearance and tone. "You keep doing you. You go better, be better, and do better. It motivates me; it is almost like fuel. My mother says this; your name will go farther than you ever will."
Keynote Speaker Michael Bach ignited the crowd with high passion and wisdom on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Bach talks explain the meaning of Diversity. "Diversity is the mix. Diversity is about all the things that make you who you are. Yes, it is about your gender and your race, but it's also about your personality style." Creating
an inclusive environment is highly important. Honestly expressing yourself creates positive morale and boosts productivity in the business environment. Bach explains the meaning of inclusion. "Inclusion is about getting the mix to work well together. It's about creating spaces, workplaces, communities, schools; where we can bring all of that difference together and be successful, despite the things that make us different." Bach emphasizes, "Inclusion is a choice, and I will argue until the day I die that it is the right thing to do for your business." Bach stressed to the audience that Diversity is a fact, and inclusion is a choice.
Bach emphasized the need for change for working women. Bach explained that women make 70 cents on the dollar and expressed that a colleague once told him that women work for free three months of the year. Bach explains a 6-step process of the right way to do Diversity and Inclusion.
Bach emphasized the importance of inclusive customer engagement, "I'm talking about how you are known in the community. Are you known as an inclusive employer? Are you known as an inclusive supplier? Because that will highly affect your people and customers. If you are known as a homophobic employer, that will affect you higher in the business community." Bach explained the process of how we answer the "how" questions. "We know what the problem is, now what is the solution? What are we going to do differently in order to fix the problem we are trying to solve?"
Bach is an internationally recognized Diversity, Equity, Inclusion expert, but expresses, "I learn something every day. It is humility that is important. It is acceptance. It's not jumping down people's throats if they miss pronouncing or if they use the wrong term."
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