It was standing room only for AdColor’s afternoon panel on Monday in Los Angeles. The panelists discussed the challenges of creating true inclusion and understanding in the workplace, and detailed how they work to broaden their own knowledgebase about the current cultural climate.
Moderator Trisch L. Smith, executive vice president and managing director of diversity and inclusion at Edelman, asked panelists how they can encourage organizations to move past the "one and done" mentality of diversity in the workplace.
"For people who do come into our organization, our focus does have to be almost investigative about why [marginalized employees] leave," said Susie Nam, chief operating officer at Droga5. "What are the root causes? Do we not have a safe workplace? Are we not being supportive enough? For us, it’s about retention."
Daisy M. Auger-Domínguez, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Viacom, added, "To be a good leader of people, you need to be able to manage difference. How do you help someone help themselves, to get the most out of their team, to get the most commercial value out of what you’re doing, so that they can be successful? Then you start seeing real change, and you start seeing real change amplify. Because it’s not just your little old person doing this, or your little old team, it’s the whole company."
Jezzika Chung, Junior Copywriter at TBWA\Media Arts Lab, shared a difficult self-reflection. "For the past few months I was thinking about how Asian-Americans contribute to anti-blackness in ways, because we’ve been taught that by our immigrant parents, we’ve been taught that by white people, we’ve been taught that by culture." Chung shared her views in a recent HuffPost article, which received both praise and criticism. The result of her vulnerability was ultimately positive, she said. "For every bad comment I got five comments saying, ‘Hey, I totally resonated with what you wrote.’"
"I think there is something about challenging our own thinking," said Allison Allen, the global head of diversity, inclusion and talent engagement at Verizon’s Oath. "I’m so not interested in getting seats at the table. That’s so 1972. I think we should be trying to get diverse people and expand that definition [to include] more than just the obvious. We have to be in people’s faces and challenge them in a way that they can understand. Forget about the seat at the table."
Rutina Wesley, a prominent actress currently featured on "Queen Sugar," said she appreciates working for Academy Award-nominated director Ava Duvernay. "I know sometimes when I’m beat on the head with religion or politics, I tune out. So I’m thankful that Ava and the writers have really chosen to be raw in the way in which they present the issues that we’re dealing with."
Toward the end of the panel discussion, Chung delivered a message to the white community, to a round of applause. "Listen," she said. "Watch these stories that are being made. We honestly do need white people to dismantle white supremacy. The burden should not lie fully on people of color to dismantle something that we did not create. I applaud all the white people in this room, because that means if you’re here, you are listening, that means you are willing to help, and you relate in some way or another."
"I always say," Smith concluded, "‘Diversity is inviting people to the party; inclusion is asking them to the dance.’"