“Why do we rely on the status quo, when we know that things are not currently okay?” asked speaker Rania Anderson on September 15th.
The Hampton Roads Chamber, in partnership with Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business, presented; “Virtual Chamber Strome Business Series – Inclusive Leadership for Today’s Workforce. The Hampton Roads Chamber welcomed Rania Anderson, author, international keynote speaker, and executive business coach.
Anderson began her talk by using COVID-19 face masks as a metaphor for those who feel they need to put a mask on in their workplace to fit in. “There are people who have been wearing masks in our communities for many years. It’s the mask they put on every day in the workplace, so they can feel like they can fit in. The masks have been a burden to them. They feel like they can’t be who they are. While we’ve been learning to wear a mask during COVID, it should make us acknowledge the masks people wear every day.” said Anderson.
After posing the audience with the mask metaphor, Anderson addressed the biggest question people often ask themselves – ‘What can I do?’ She stated that it’s easy to be stuck in the mindset “someone else will take care of it”. We often wait for lawmakers, change-makers and top organizational leaders to make structural change. Instead of waiting for change to come from those external forces, we should be focused on actions we can implement in our workplace right now. She urges everyone to think of themselves as a leader capable of making change by following these steps:
Anderson then went on to explain how micro-aggressions can take place in the workplace without the aggressor even realizing it. She explained that though each isolated incident might seem small, these aggressions can multiply to the point of the employee leaving that workplace. Anderson explained that being an active ally, amplifying voices, being an advocate and mentor are steps that you can take to be a more inclusive workplace. Anderson said “I want us to think of ourselves as leaders and individual actions we can take the accountability we can have. These actions can range from frequenting more minority-owned businesses to sponsoring or mentoring someone different from you, to amplifying underrepresented voices.”
Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber asked Anderson, “I have a very strong belief that DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is now a business imperative and you cannot run a successful business unless you have DEI. Do you find this to be true?”
Anderson agreed stating all of her research has proven that workplaces that have DEI outperform those who do not. She explained, “When we are on a diverse group, we try harder because we have to justify what we are thinking and what we are contributing. The group overall is more creative and has more broadened thinking.”
Stephens added, “Without it [DEI], we cannot win. We are keeping ourselves back, and we have all the data to show it. DEI should be part of your culture. It shouldn’t take us 200 years to get there.”
Anderson ended the webinar by saying, “I want to leave everyone with this – we need to stop waiting for someone to fix the problem – we need to think about it as a leadership problem. Everyone has a leadership opportunity. While structural changes do need to be made, we can take some simple actions that will actually make a difference. I urge everyone to think of what those actions are for you, and how you can start implementing them.”
Anderson has spoken worldwide at companies, conferences and universities, and worked with executives and reams at Fortune 100 companies. She started her executive business coaching practice in 1997, and in 2010 she founded TheWayWoMenWork.com to provide evidence-based, practical career and business guidance to men and women. She is also the co-founder of a women's Angel investor network of 45 women investors who invest equity in high-growth women-led businesses.
Thank you to Atlantic Union Bank, Series Presenting Sponsor, for making this series possible. Our next Chamber Strome virtual event is October 27th with Economist Fred Bergsten.
To access the presentation by Rania Anderson, click here.