CareerBuilder | July 24, 2020
Conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion have continued to be at the forefront of public discourse in the past couple months. Companies – CareerBuilder included – are developing and implementing plans, trainings and initiatives to support their community and employees.
On July 23, we hosted a companywide panel to complement our continued work and bring together different representatives from groups across our community. We were joined by experts in diversity and inclusion, community activists who drive and support groups that haven’t received the right support, and representation from within our CareerBuilder community. The below Q&A has been edited for clarity and succinctness.
Panelists (learn more about them at the end of this post):
Tonya: Please share a little of what drives your passion on the topic of building an inclusive community at work.
LaSaia: 90% of Trans/Gender Nonconforming (TGNC) people make less than $10,000 a year. We have to change the narrative around arriving wages versus surviving wages.
Cody: Removing of barriers is something I've dedicated myself to. There have been so many job interviews I’ve been on where they look at my name and think I must be Irish, and then I get there and the conversation changes. We all have to dedicate ourselves to this process.
DaNine: I feel I have a duty and obligation to ensure there is education equity, as well as inclusion in the workplace. I have been the recipient of environments that have not been so inclusive. Being marginalized makes me want to be even more positive in wanting to make a difference, and not just being part of rhetoric but being part of change and taking every opportunity I have to make sure my voice is heard.
Safaya: In my personal experiences, not talking about identity prioritizes the status quo. As Muslim American, there are lots of misconceptions and ignorance about my community, and not talking about it has caused harm. When an inclusive community is present, and people feel comfortable to share who they are and be open to un-learning – that brings inclusivity to everyone in it.
Tonya: What do you feel makes a more inclusive environment?
Safaya: Just being open and acknowledging differences. The corporate environment, generally, is to not make waves or cause attention, but when we do that, we end up ignoring or erasing differences. What makes an environment inclusive is acknowledging and owning up to, what are the things we could be doing better, and genuinely asking for feedback. It also speaks to the environment in how comfortable people feel to share that feedback. Provide employees and staff ways to talk about what’s wrong and how to make it right. From leadership down, owning it and being honest are important features.
DaNine: I believe that we must respect individual differences in an environment and explicitly articulate expectations.
LaSaia: We must acknowledge the harm of what’s happened, like implement holidays or particular days that are attached to marginalized communities, for example Juneteenth. And by acknowledging the historical context we’re living in, the political crisis we’re living in, we’re pushing (inclusivity) into corporate worlds and uplifting (it) as well.
Cody: You have to start internally and address the elephants in the room. It’s great to have a PR piece or communications plan stating “We don’t support hate, we are equal opportunity” – that’s great – but practice what you preach. It’s not finger-pointing, and there’s no such thing as perfection. There will always be duality. You have to say, these are the demographics and here they are. We have a lack of whatever it may be, we are addressing this.
Tonya: Over the last month, CareerBuilder has been conducting trainings for our employees. Part of this series is an in-depth analysis of how everyone has unconscious bias and how to address that. Individually we all have them, but how can organizations address unconscious bias for itself?
DaNine: That CareerBuilder is acknowledging this and starting with the top and wanting to do more is amazing to me. But long after the videos or trainings are gone, the work continues. An organization has to examine its policies, practices and procedures, including hiring and retention, promotion from within, and looking at these through a diversity lens. There must be action. We can talk about it, but then what? Seek outside perspectives who can strategically view an organization because you have to look through an unbiased lens, and it’s not an indictment for someone to say, I'm seeing something – let's talk. When you know better, you do better. It’s imperative that this has to come from the top, and employees must be empowered from within the organization for action to happen. People have to believe the system and be part of it. And when the company has all the same information, from trainings or otherwise, it holds individuals accountable as well as the organization itself.
Safaya: The business world looks to trainings as a solution, but training alone is not truly effective at changing an environment because you’re asking people to make interpersonal, individual changes. You can’t change unconscious bias overnight, so policies need to be doing the work to, for example, avoid looking at names when we’re looking at resumes. That should be a policy. It’s not a requirement to be perfect, and a company should have a policy that can fill in the blanks. Training is pretty much useless without policies.
Tonya: Step 1 is education, beyond that is reinforcement, the so-what, the what’s-next.
Tonya: What thoughts do you have on how companies can support their employees in professional settings during this time when they are also dealing with difficult topics outside of work?
Cody: When people are not accepted for certain jobs just because of identity, that says a lot. June felt like hell because, not only did I see a man publicly executed, and still having to perform (at my job during) that, there is pressure to assimilate when you are in these “other” groups. Human capital is the most important tool you have, and you have to have an interest in (people). If there is a hidden toxic culture, people won't apply if they don’t feel like people will hear them. There is a difference between being “not racist” and anti-racist, or pro-LGBTQ, pro-Muslim. To share a personal story, my first understanding of what being Black meant was when I was 8-years-old and learning the story of Emmett Till from his mother. When you’re introduced to that, you’re not operating in the same space as everyone else. You’re not in the same psyche, and I know, at any given moment, what this color means.
LaSaia: We had eight Black trans women killed in one month, and 23 killed in the year and it’s not even over yet. We are missing nuance around power and equity. How can we build community when we don’t trust each other? For example, I might get hurt just because of who I am. This is about changing levels of power and uplifting people who do not have access to power. It’s about changing leadership and making sure I don’t feel like I'm tokenized. There needs to be conversations about being palatable enough or passable enough, about sexism around what a person needs to look like to work in this space. It’s about the rhetoric of what people have to look like to work in an environment.
DaNine: We must create environments of acceptance instead of just tolerance, and make sure we speak to and not for, or over, but with marginalized groups. As allies, you get to ask how you can assist. It’s about changing the culture to make sure inclusivity is part of the fabric of the organization, not just a throwaway. Be strategic and say, we’re going to do more and say more because it’s just that important.
Tonya: What is an ally? What is a comrade? And, what is the difference between the two?
LaSaia: A comrade is someone who shares in the activity of a person. We need to maneuver from allyship to being a comrade. The difference between ally versus comrade is, are you the person I can trust to help me get away or are you an ally recording me getting beat up. We need more comrades for Black people, we need you to step up and maneuver yourself to that level.
Tonya: I want to add that words matter and the definitions behind those words matter. We need to understand what we’re trying to talk about before we jump in an “do”. Safaya, what advice would you give to people interested?
Safaya: Listen to LaSaia’s definition and really think about a comrade or accomplice as – you may lose things in helping others. There are major disparities between people of color and white folks and the power that exists. To ensure that people of color are not being killed or facing an extreme consequence, a white person will need to call out what’s going on and do the work to stop what’s happening from happening. Listen to the person experiencing marginalization and confront people you may not ordinarily confront. These are verbs and aren’t just words you call yourself. Comrade is not really something you can give yourself. You have to be in community with others, and they trust you and know you’ll get stuff done. It’s not giving the word to yourself.
DaNine: It is amazing that this comes up because so many people define things differently. You don’t get to be silent, a bystander, do nothing. Support others and ask versus assuming what we think is best in a situation, which can be more harmful than helpful. Everybody is expected to hold each other accountable so that we have a just environment.
Thank you to our outstanding panelists for an insightful, engaging conversation. CareerBuilder is committed to improving diversity and inclusion in education and support for our employees, in our tools and technology to clients, and by partnering with our community.
About the panelists:
Tonya Mompoint is the VP of Global PMO for CareerBuilder. She has a 12+ year track record of success in Strategic Planning & Program Management. Tonya is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to encourage others to work hard and succeed. She’s helped design CareerBuilder’s organizational business strategies for many years and continues to add value in ways that reinvents her talents and contributions time after time. Tonya is a native of Summerville, South Carolina but currently resides in Northeast Georgia. She has her MBA from Walden University and her BA from Georgia State University. She is an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated where she serves as the current Vice President of Membership. Tonya is active in her local community and enjoys spending time with her two children, Gavin & Payton, who are her daily inspiration. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with friends & family. Fun fact: Tonya used to be a full-time bartender and enjoys collecting wine from all over the world.
Dr. DaNine J. Fleming is a multi-faceted Educational Specialist, Program Director and Public Speaker with a career that has spanned from student leadership development to diversity and inclusion education. Specializing in leadership and developing strategies for increasing diversity, conflict resolution and creating grassroots community initiatives, she has served her community at numerous levels –from higher education leadership to community support as a Birth Doula, Childbirth Educator and founding member of a youth anti violence advisory council. Dr. Fleming holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Claflin University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. She also holds advanced degrees in Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Charleston, South Carolina State University and Youngstown State University respectively. In 2011, she earned a Certificate in Theology from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently a member of Leadership South Carolina (2017 Cohort).
Safaya Fawzi is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional who actively supports organizations in leading, educating, training, and communicating around systems change. Currently, she is the Associate Director in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at the American Bar Association. She works to advance one of the key strategic goals of the ABA: Eliminating Bias & Enhancing Diversity & Inclusion in the legal profession. She works with volunteers, law professionals, and staff across organizations to support programming and operations that advance access for lawyers from historically marginalized backgrounds. Among her roles, she has led in demographic survey/data collection, coordinated events, managed communications and program staff, and provided direct feedback and supervision for the external marketing for the department as a whole to expand the work of the ABA and reach out to historically-excluded groups. She has over 6 years’ experience facilitating, designing, and leading training crowds large and small at all levels of understanding about topics ranging from basic diversity, equity, and inclusion 101 to advanced racial equity conversations, as well as conversations on other types of diversity (gender, sexual orientation, religious diversity, disability, immigration status, class). Prior to the ABA, she worked in diversity and inclusion at the YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for over 800 YMCA associations across the country.
LaSaia Wade is an open Afro-Puerto Rican indigenous Trans Woman, founder of TNTJ Tennessee Trans Journey Project, and member of Chicago Trans Gender Nonconforming Collective and the Trans Liberation Collective, and Director of Brave Space Alliance. Recently, she was honored at the Chicago LGBTQA Black History Recognitions ceremony and is the first trans woman in Illinois history to be honored in Women's History month for the work she's doing not limited to community organizing. Her role in organizing ranges between and beyond as a central organizer for the Trans Liberation Protest Chicago, the largest march for trans rights in Midwestern history. LaSaia graduated in 2012 with a Masters of Business Administration degree in Business Management from Murfreesboro Tennessee State University, has 10+ years of experience in organizing and advocacy work with black, indigenous, trans and gender nonconforming people around the world. Her role in organizing ranges between and beyond as a central organizer for the Trans Liberation Collective Chicago, the largest march for trans rights in Midwestern history and being a leader in Midwest Ballroom The International Legendary House of Prodigy.
Cody Kelly is a husband, minister, human rights advocate, and corporate professional that is dedicated to bringing about organizational evolution in the form of process, culture, and services. Cody graduated from Loyola University of Chicago in 2011 where he received his BA. He then was accepted into Law School but decided to take an alternate route into the MBA program through Keller Graduate School of Management. He graduated from Keller in 2017 with an MBA and a 3.8 GPA. He serves professionally in the Senior Account Executive role at CareerBuilder. He personal life is dedicated to the needs of the Englewood community on Chicago’s south side through his local church-Freedom Temple COGIC. He is actively engaged in ministry, urban mentorship, and initiatives. He believes that equality and equity will only come about when the love for the human spirit and experience is understood, appreciated, celebrated and united with faith.