Last fall I was having lunch with some of the folks at Sodexo, who are very involved in the Aging Services of California EMERGE program and in other programming we offer to members. In the course of the conversation, we began discussing diversity and inclusion. I was just returning back to the office from speaking on diversity at a conference and I learned what a priority Sodexo places on their diversity and inclusion efforts. In 2010, they were ranked the number one on Diversity Inc’s top companies for diversity. I was fortunate at that time to receive an invitation to Sodexo’s annual Diversity Business and Leadership Summit, which is where I am right now.
This morning, CNN Anchor and Correspondent Soledad O’Brien, spoke about diversity and inclusion as they relate to her work in journalism. And while her conversations were very specific to her experiences in journalism and life, the over reaching messages were relevant to any business leader who places value on creating and maintaining diverse and inclusive environments, who cares about the benefits of D&I on talent recruitment and management, and who places value on being competitive with the best in their field.
I have some more specific notes from her talk on my twitter feed (http://twitter.com/sdoute). The big thing I took away from her talk, however, was a major focus on unconscious bias, or assumptions. In life, in business, it’s easy to put people in boxes of what we expect from them based on any number of characteristics we may observe. This is natural to some extent. But, when we act on those assumptions, it becomes problematic. So, as business leaders, as leaders in senior living, how do we break down the boxes? Or, how do we give people the right environment and the tools they need to be able to climb outside of those boxes on their own, so that they can bring their unique value to the table?
I also attended a session on micro-inequities in the workplace which was fascinating. I’ll return later to post a few thoughts on that course.