Meet Danielle Olson: A ‘Gique’ Advancing the Case for STEAM Education

LinkedIn
Danielle Olson

What is a “Gique”? It’s a cross between “geek” and “chic,” a maker and creative problem-solver whose interdisciplinary interests turn STEM into STEAM. Meet Danielle Olson, researcher and PhD student at MIT and proud founder of Gique, a nonprofit that provides transformational, culturally situated STEAM learning for underserved youth.

Olson says being a Gique is about using your passion to embrace change and create your dream job. Olson offered STEMconnector her insights and experience as an engineer, a dancer, a dreamer, and pioneer in STEAM education, as well as research on how the arts are leveling the educational playing field in STEM.

Interview below courtesy of Stemconnector

STEMconnector: How does using the arts impact the STEM talent gap?

Danielle Olson: Fortunately, a new and exciting field of education is emerging where curricula are designed to expose youth to the applications of science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics (STEAM) in the real world. STEAM, rather than just STEM, education focuses on student cultivation of the critical, creative, and participatory dispositions key to empowered, authentic engagement in both science and art, along with preparing students to think of ways that they can contribute to society as individuals.

The arts have been treated as a “cherry on top” in recent years. But research demonstrates that an arts education offers critical development opportunities for children, which include cognitive and social growth, long-term memory improvement, stress reduction, and promotion of creativity. In fact, research findings show that if arts were included in science classes, STEM would be more appealing to students, and exposure to experts in these fields could affect career decisions. Gique believes that STEAM education affords students opportunities to envision themselves pursuing their “dream careers,” which they may invent for themselves.

There are three categories that aid in representing various perspectives of art integration: (1) learning “through” and “with” the arts, (2) making connections across knowledge domains, and (3) collaborative engagement across disciplines.

Gique piloted a 9-month-long, out-of-school STEAM Program with students at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester, an inner-city in Boston, Massachusetts, in the areas of science, the arts, and entrepreneurship by putting the theoretical framework, which underpins the necessity for STEAM education, into action.

SC: What kinds of lessons do you offer students?

DO: Gique designs and provides free, hands-on educational programs and mentorship to talented youth from diverse circumstances in the Boston area and in California. We create a safe, positive learning community for our students and cultivate their curiosity and self-esteem through two arms of programming:

  • Gique’s Science Can DANCE! Community Programs—provides youth with a way to explore STEAM through creative movement and dance choreography. By taking an integrated approach to breaking down technical concepts, we provide a unique mentorship opportunity for students interested in both arts and science topics.
  • Gique’s Out-of-School Time (OST) STEAM Program—a 9-month-long, weekly after-school program for middle school students to explore their personal interests in STEAM. This program enables students to receive long-term mentorship from innovators from around the world and participate in hands-on workshops and field trips. By the end of the semester, students gain a better understanding of how they can take an idea from concept to reality through innovation with art + design, science, and technology.

In addition to these two programs, Gique has provided a wide variety of educational opportunities to people of all ages in the Boston area for the past four years. We have collaborated with numerous organizations to provide educational programming, including MIT Museum, Harvard Museum of Science & Culture, Artisan’s Asylum, and General Assembly Boston.

SC: How can corporations that support a vibrant STEM workforce get involved in advancing STEAM education?

DO: First, corporations should stand with teachers and parents to fight back against policies that discourage interdisciplinary education. This may include, but is not limited to, policies that result in art, drama, history, and science class time reduction and policies, which discourage teachers from being innovative due to too much focus on standardized testing.

Second, people in power must use their influence to help give underrepresented groups more access to resources that can level the playing field in education. I had access to programs like FIRST Robotics Competition and MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program, which changed my life, thanks to the generosity of donors investing directly in people of color by sponsoring these programs. However, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in these programs if I had to pay for them. That’s why Gique leverages the support of its sponsors to deliver life-changing experiences to students that help them pursue career dreams that they may have deemed impossible.

SC: How is Gique measuring its impact?

DO: We have a structured process in place to design, administer, and analyze quantitative and qualitative measurements, including pre- and post- assessments, audio/video interviews, and external feedback (from program staff/volunteers and parents/guardians).

Specifically, for Gique’s OST STEAM Program, a schema was developed to identify, both broadly and specifically, what students learned and in what context it applies to their lives. Prior to each term, the program leadership developed several goals for student impact, with measurable indicators to assess each goal. Assessment questions were adapted from the Museum of Science Boston’s Engineering is Elementary program assessment model. At the end of the semester, students completed the same assessment for the program leadership to understand what deltas occurred and what the development areas were for program improvement.

While the quantitative data collected often helped to inform strategic decisions and content choices, the qualitative data showed how the program impacted students, parents, volunteers and teachers. Gique wholeheartedly believes that learning experiences should be fun, so asking these qualitative questions were critical to the development and success of the pilot OST STEAM program.

Gaining parent/guardian feedback served to be an excellent indicator of how excited students were about the program.

Visit Gique’s community of leaders and makers at gique.me

Source: stemconnector.com

NASA’s Real Life ‘Hidden Figure’ On How To Advance Women In STEM

LinkedIn
christyl johnson from nasa

“There are so many women that are capable, smart, sharp and good at what they do. What they are lacking is the opportunity to sit across the table from the other minds that are coming up with the innovative solutions,” says Dr. Christyl Johnson, NASA’s Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments.

Dr. Johnson joined NASA in the summer of 1985 and over the years she has dedicated her efforts to support young women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)

Described as a ‘modern figure’ Dr. Johnson is regularly likened to the characters in the movie Hidden Figures. The film portrays the experience of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson – three talented African-American women – who worked at NASA Langley in 1961.

The movie tackles important issues like institutional racism and sexism.  Dr. Johnson says it highlights the importance of diversity in innovation. “If anyone wants to make leaps and advances in their organization it is paramount that they bring different perspectives to the table,” she says.

In this interview, Dr. Johnson shares the lessons she has learned throughout her career at NASA and how each of us can support the advancement of women in STEM.

Michelle King: Do you see yourself in the movie Hidden Figures?

Dr. Johnson: Although things have significantly improved at NASA since the times represented in Hidden Figures, I too have experienced similar struggles with racism and sexism.  I resonate with the women in the movie because I see them as strong African American women who were determined to succeed despite their circumstances. That determination is what has gotten me to where I am today. NASA has identified me as a ‘modern figure’, so I hope that I and the other ‘modern figures’ continue to inspire our young girls to see themselves in that movie, and in STEM careers.

King: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in your career as a woman in STEM?

Dr. Johnson: One of the biggest challenges I have had as a woman in STEM is breaking into the “boys network.” For many years at NASA, and other scientific organizations the makeup has been mostly white males. Even when women bring unique solutions to the table, it can take twice as much work for them to gain the respect of their male counterparts.  I can recall being in meetings and asking a question only to have the male answering the question look at the other males in the room while answering my question.

I am fortunate that NASA has been at the forefront of supporting women in technical fields, as shown in the movie Hidden Figures. With the support of some of my male and female mentors, I have grown and blossomed at NASA. With all of that said, we still have a little way to go for women to have an equal seat at the table.  Not only do the appropriate organizational policies need to be in place, but appropriate, respectful behavior must be the norm – starting with the leadership at the top.

King: How do we ensure that women have an equal seat at the table?

Dr. Johnson: We need to make sure women have high visibility assignments. So many times you hear people say that, ‘We didn’t have any good women candidates.’  Even if we were to have diverse selection panels to ensure fairness in the selection process, you can’t hire women if they have not had those high-profile assignments that show their leadership capability.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Want to Run a Successful Business? Hire More Women

LinkedIn
professional women in business

Silicon Valley has long celebrated failure, encouraging founders to aim big and fail fast, pick themselves up, and try again. In that spirit, there’s one big failure to add to the list: Silicon Valley has failed women, period, and it’s time for the industry to own it. At the current rate, with VCs celebrated for hiring their first (first!) female partners and companies ever so slowly achieving single-digit increases in the number of female engineers and managers, it will take us a generation or more to get to anywhere near 50-50. That is unacceptable. Women not only represent half the population but drive 70 to 80 percent of consumer purchases. If only for the sake of profits, women should not be excluded from the process of imagining and creating new products.

There are a few founders who see the opportunity here. Everyone is looking for a competitive advantage, and some tech leaders have realized that there is an abundance of talent and valuable ideas in the populations that, for the last three decades, have been largely untapped. Looking at their new women-inclusive businesses and work- place cultures can give us some idea of the potential payoffs.

I ran into Dick Costolo in April 2016, 10 months after he had left Twitter, and he was nearly giddy, having just hired another female engineer at his new personal-fitness start-up, Chorus, the fourth company he has co-founded in two decades. From day one, Costolo focused obsessively on making sure he hired as many women as men, even if it took longer to find them. “Once you fall behind, if just two out of 20 engineers are women, it’s impossible to catch up,” Costolo told me. “Any one of these companies, the underlying disease is that it’s 90 percent men,” Costolo says. “Everything, literally everything, is reinforcing the problem.”

Jack Dorsey, who returned to Twitter as CEO when Costolo left, is also taking an innovative approach to improving the environment for women at his other company, Square. New female engineers joining the company are placed on teams that include other women rather than alone with a group of men. The hope is to engender camaraderie and networking and mitigate the “imposter syndrome” that women often experience when they are the only female in a room of male engineers. Still, with a limited number of female engineers, there is a trade-off to this strategy: Some teams will remain all male. It’s an experiment, one that Dorsey believes is worth trying. In the meantime, Square has developed a strong bench of female executives. “It’s not just creating a sense of belonging that’s important,” Dorsey told me, “but also making sure women contribute to decision making.”

And then there’s the most straightforward strategy, that having women in charge will naturally attract more women. Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, says the company’s gender balance is 50-50 and that this has happened organically perhaps as a result of simply having strong female role models at the top.

Continue onto Inc. to read the complete article.

Meet Janice Bryant Howroyd, the first African American woman to run a $1-billion business

LinkedIn
CEO of Act 1 Group

Janice Bryant Howroyd, 65, is founder and chief executive of Act 1 Group, an employment agency that also provides consulting and business services, including background checks and screening. She’s the first African American woman to operate a company that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, according to Black Enterprise Magazine. Act 1, which includes other brands such as Agile 1, A-Check Global and AppleOne, has contracts with 17,000 clients in 19 countries.

“If you visit any of our offices,” Howroyd said, “you’ll see that we live by the mantra that ‘the applicant is the center of our universe.’ It’s always been our belief that if you get that applicant in the right job, then they will be the best representation of who we are as a company.”

Early lessons

Growing up in Tarboro, N.C., as one of 11 children, Howroyd had early lessons in team building. Each sibling was assigned an older one to act as a mentor.

“My sister Sandy was my appointed guardian angel,” Howroyd said, “so it was up to her to see that I’d gotten my homework done, my hair was done, and my thoughts and process were in line with what the family wanted. We were very organized.”

Big move

After studying humanities and English at North Carolina A&T, Howroyd faced culture shock when she moved to Los Angeles in 1976 with just $900. Her older sister again provided welcome advice to “settle myself into knowing who I was, learning the power of that and understanding it.”

Brother-in-law Tom provided a temporary job at Billboard and saw entrepreneurial talents in the way Howroyd interacted with clients. Even when she was ill at ease, “I would revert to what I do well, which is strategize. I love to look at a problem, break it apart, find the better potential, knowing when to eliminate what doesn’t need to be there.”

Word of mouth

Howroyd, who didn’t even own a fax machine, opened Act 1 in a small office in Beverly Hills in 1978. She started out by making full-time job placements for companies needing workers, then shifting to temporary placements. Pleased clients were her best advertisements.

“It still matters in business more what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself,” Howroyd said. “You can have the best advertising, but unless someone else certifies what they are saying, you won’t last long. Word of mouth has always been my best referral system.”

Standing out

Early on, Howroyd employed a strategy that allowed her to compete against bigger companies, preparing her prospective hires by training them in what their employers were looking for in new workers.

“It always works best when you can tailor a hire to fit into a company’s philosophy,” Howroyd said. “They walk in better prepared and it’s more likely to be a very good fit for your client.”

Standing up

Whether it was dealing with racist students and teachers in her youth or businesspeople who uttered the most stunningly insensitive remarks, Howroyd said there were times when she was forced to bite her tongue and muddle through and other times when it was clear a stand had to be made, as frightening as that might clearly be.

“In order to be outstanding, sometimes, you’re just going to have to stand out” and not hide, Howroyd said. “My personal business protocol, my life mantra: Never compromise who you are personally to become what you wish to be professionally.”

Continue onto the LA Times to read the complete article.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun(damental) Workplace Rights

LinkedIn
Elizabeth Bradley

Young women professionals entering the workforce have little to no knowledge on how to handle workplace issues such as harassment, discrimination, and the gender wage gap. “Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge could put an entire generation of women at a disadvantage and seriously affect their earning potential,” said Elizabeth Bradley, Partner with Beverly Hills-based civil litigation and trial law firm Rosen Saba LLP.

“Most women are not taught to recognize subtler forms of discrimination that are less obvious than open harassment, but no less pervasive,” Bradley said. “For example, they may not realize that a man getting more promotions and advancement opportunities than his equally qualified female colleague is just as discriminatory as a man being paid more than a woman for doing the same job. They also may not realize that in several states, now including California, prospective employers are not permitted to ask for candidates’ salary history.”

Bradley, who has handled countless discrimination and harassment lawsuits, explains that gender doesn’t have to be the only motivating factor that is taken into account when filing a discrimination lawsuit. She is available to discuss this, as well as:

  • Important workplace rights that many young professional women are unaware of.
  • Ways that women can document harassment and discrimination so that allegations are not dismissed as hearsay, and without jeopardizing their careers.
  • Why the gender wage gap persists, and how women can advocate for higher salaries even if they have been underpaid in the past.
  • Specific industries where these issues are especially prevalent.

For information about the law firm, visit RosenSaba.com

 

The “She” Suite Celebrates International Women’s Day with Women in the C-Suite and in Leading Roles

LinkedIn
International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is quickly approaching, and six leading business women will discuss their journey to the top of the corporate ladder. Gender diversity and inclusion remains a pressing issue across industries and sectors – and by ignoring this issue, companies may be hurting their bottom line.

WHEN
March 8, 2018
7:15 AM – 9:15 AM

WHERE
Washington University in St. Louis – Emerson Auditorium in Knight Hall
Snow Way, 1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

WHO
Rebecca Boyer, Chief Financial Officer, KellyMitchell Group, Inc.; EMBA alumna
Andrea Faccio, Chief Marketing Officer, Nestle Purina North America; EMBA alumna
Linda Haberstroh, President, Phoenix Textile Corporation; EMBA alumna
Mary Heger, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Ameren Services Company; EMBA alumna
Deborah Slagle, Senior Vice President, Biologics Technology Cluster, MilliporeSigma; EMBA alumna
Joyce Trimuel, Chief Diversity Officer, CNA Insurance; EMBA alumna

According to a McKinsey study, diversity at the executive level strongly correlates with profitability and value creation. In fact, companies in the top quartile of executive-level gender diversity have a 27% likelihood of outperforming their less diverse peers.

On March 8, Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) will host a special panel discussion celebrating International Women’s Day featuring six business women who demonstrate their value to their companies as leaders every day. They are entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and global leaders representing companies. such as Nestle Purina, Ameren, and more.

One thing they all have in common: their Executive MBA experience from WashU, which is ranked among the top 10 EMBA programs in the country by several noted business publications including Financial Times.

From Real Estate To Tech Startup As An Over-40, African-American Female Founder

LinkedIn

Denise Hamilton left a very successful career in commercial real estate, as well as several other wide-ranging past endeavors, to start WatchHerWork. She elicits elegantly raw, specific and action-focused insights from professional women to help other women navigate successful careers. The thousands of interviews she’s done, combined with her own experience, fuel Denise’s powerful straight talk about career success, particularly for women and minority professionals.

Nell Derick Debevoise: What’s your current role?

Denise Hamilton: I’m the CEO and Founder of WatchHerWork, a multimedia digital platform that is closing the achievement gap for professional women by providing the much-needed professional advice they need when they need it, how they need it.

Debevoise: Tell us about your transition. It was a big one, right?

Hamilton: I had a successful career in Commercial Real Estate when I walked away to start a tech company, which is WatchHerWork.com.

Debevoise: What was scary to you about that big shift?

Hamilton: Economic Security is always the scariest part of any leap for me. There aren’t a lot of 47-year-old African American tech founders out there. I worried whether I would be welcomed into the space and if my unique perspective would be welcomed or marginalized. But I knew I had to bet on myself.

Debevoise: What was the hardest thing once you made the transition?

Hamilton: Patience. When you come from a salaried position with a large staff, it is a brutal transition to being alone or in a skeleton crew with limited resources. I used to have 10 direct reports to assign things to. Now, I have as many action items as they do at Goop with about 300 fewer people. I had to learn to be patient with what I was capable of accomplishing each day.

Debevoise: What was the most fun?

Hamilton: Constant reinvention and exploration. I learn something new every day and I am incredibly passionate about changing women’s lives the way we do at WatchHerWork. I feel the constant stretch and growth and I love it!

Debevoise: Who was most useful during your transition?

Hamilton: I had incredible mentors and cheerleaders who encouraged me and invested time to help me in the areas I needed support. No one has all the answers, but together, we all do.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

How Being Underestimated Drove These Two Latinas To Publish Lil’ Libros

LinkedIn
two latina entrepreneurs

Have you ever dreamed of going into business with your best friend? Does it stay a dream, or in your mind does it turn into a nightmare? Ariana Stein and Patty Rodriguez, have been best friends since the age of twelve and will happily tell you that adding a business level to their friendship was the best decision they’ve collectively made.

After becoming moms, the duo kickstarted a business partnership with one goal in mind — creating the bilingual children’s book series that every Latina mom would love.

“The books aren’t designed to give lengthy, in-depth history lessons, as they’re only 22 pages long,” explains Ariana. “Instead the goal is to teach the basics, introduce them to culture, and motivate kids to continue learning additional words and languages. The books have always been about starting the bilingual learning journey with subjects that parents feel a connection with.”

Since its launch, Lil’ Libros has steadily become a presence on the shelves of Targets and local bookstores alike. The journey to getting Lil’ Libros on those bookshelves though has not been an easy one.

In her episode of Creating Espacios, Patty stated, “I think there’s so much strength that can be drawn from a bad day” and told a handful of stories of the ups and downs of building a business with her best friend.

But, those small glimpses weren’t enough. Here’s a full look at how Ariana and Patty describe their entrepreneurial success with Lil’ Libros.

Vivian Nunez: How did Lil’ Libros get its start?

Ariana Stein: It was our passion to ensure our children were raised to be bilingual.  Being best friends and knowing each other’s background, both being first generation Latinas, made it easier for us to decide to do this together.

Patty Rodriguez: Ariana and I have known each other since we were 12 years old.  We’ve always tried creating something together. There was a time when we actually worked on a hot dog start-up!  We were probably 18 at the time.  And then there was a time when David Beckham arrived to the states; it was such a big deal back then, we took it as an opportunity to capitalize on it, we ended up making shirts inspired by him!  That didn’t turn as planned, but we did it! I think Ariana’s husband still wears the shirts! So I feel that this was always meant to be.

Stein:  That’s not it! We also started a bilingual entertainment site.  This was actually picking up steam, and going the direction that we wanted it to go, but we weren’t passionate about it.  I think this is why it failed, but everything is a lesson.  Had we not had the hot dog business, shirt business, entertainment website, we wouldn’t have Lil’ Libros.

Nunez: How would each of you define Lil Libros mission?

Stein: Our mission has always been to introduce bilingualism and encourage parents to read to their children at the earliest age by focusing on subjects they are familiar with, and making it as fun and rewarding as possible.

Rodriguez: Each book we are creating is a seed. A seed we hope a parent plants at home with their child. We want parents and children to love to read, to create those moments together.

Nunez: What’s been the biggest entrepreneurial lesson you’ve learned since starting Lil Libros?

Stein:  To be fearless. Not be afraid to ask for anything. The worst thing that you can hear is the word “no.” Rejection can be hurtful and discouraging but this is what makes us stronger. Stronger to succeed and prove everyone that anything is possible.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Women With Disabilities Face High Barriers To Entrepreneurship. How To Change That

LinkedIn

The University of Illinois — Chicago is home to a unique education program for entrepreneurs with disabilities run by associate professor Dr. Katherine Caldwell. It’s called Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities.

“We wanted to really bring disability studies and entrepreneurship to the same table to look at, ‘Okay, well where are we now?’” Caldwell said. “What does it look like, what are the main barriers that they’re running into, and what sort of facilitators would help them out?”

Caldwell found that Chicago-area entrepreneurs with disabilities had trouble finding resources to grow their businesses, had high barriers to entry and faced structural challenges from the disability benefits system.

Caldwell also notes that most of the entrepreneurs she works with are women of color. Women and minorities with disabilities face extra challenges. “There’s that whole discussion of the pay gap that we’ve been having in women’s rights circles,” Caldwell said. “But it hasn’t included women with disabilities.”

Accessible opportunities

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities aims to help participants understand the benefit system and other typical barriers to entrepreneurship so that they can find a way to be most successful in building a business.

Like in any demographic group, there’s plenty of desire to build businesses in the disability community. Perhaps, it’s even stronger, Caldwell said, because traditional employment opportunities for people with disabilities are often less than ideal.

“They want to take control,” she said. “ They want to start a business so they can, not just create a job for themselves, but also create jobs for other people with disabilities.”

Many people with disabilities are employed through something called sheltered workshops. Which, Caldwell said, “Is basically work in a segregated work setting where they’re paid less than minimum wage.”

Sheltered employment was originally intended to give people with disabilities a chance to get work experience and skills that they could use to get other jobs. But, “Only five percent of workers actually go on to competitive employment from sheltered workshops,” Caldwell said. “So it’s not effective at achieving what it was supposed to back in the ’30s and yet for some reason we’re still doing it.”

In fact, she argues many companies are exploiting workers with disabilities through sheltered employment because it’s a way for companies to employ people who they can pay significantly less than minimum wage.

In addition to entrepreneurship as an escape from sheltered work, people with disabilities can use entrepreneurship to tackle challenges they face every day navigating a mostly inaccessible world.

“They can tap into that innovative potential of having experienced the problems that their business serves first hand,” Caldwell said.

Representation matters

Caldwell believes there needs to be an increase in representation of entrepreneurs with disabilities on a wider scale.

“One thing that they really need, and one thing that they currently lack are mentors, are examples of success,” she said. “Which is why having more visibility of entrepreneurs with disabilities especially women entrepreneurs with disabilities in the media would be super helpful.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article

Dollar General Announces Call for New Vendors

LinkedIn

Suppliers, companies and manufacturers with exciting new products who want to reach millions of consumers and partner with one of America’s fastest-growing retailers that is currently listed #128 on the Fortune 500 list and posted $22 billion in FY 2016 sales, listen up!

Dollar General (NYSE: DG) is encouraging new suppliers and those who have not sold products to the Company within the past 18 months to apply to attend its inaugural Innovation and Supplier Diversity Summit in April 2018. The event aims to pair potential new vendors with respective Dollar General buyers and category managers. Suppliers must sell items in at least one of the following categories to be eligible to attend:

  • Beauty, Personal Care and Over-the-Counter/Wellness
  • General Merchandise/All Non-Food
  • Grocery.

“As part of Dollar General’s continual commitment to provide quality products at everyday low prices to our diverse consumer base, we are thrilled to announce our first Innovation and Supplier Diversity Summit scheduled for this spring,” said Jason Reiser, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer. “Having the right products to best meet our customers’ needs is a foundational cornerstone at Dollar General. As such, we look forward to meeting with potential new vendors, learning about relevant products for our customers and expanding the number of unique and specialized offerings available in our stores.”

To apply, interested suppliers, companies and manufacturers may submit their product information at www.rangeme.com/dollargeneral from Tuesday, January 30 through end of day on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. Selected companies will be subject to a $500 participation fee and notified via email by Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM) of the time, date and location of their meeting with a member of the Dollar General merchandising team.

Continue onto Business Wire to read the complete article.

How to Promote Increased Inclusivity in the Workplace

LinkedIn
Rochelle Ford

By Rochelle Ford

When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we often view it from two camps: diversity of thought, and race and ethnicity. Both should achieve the same goal: people bringing their unique perspectives, experiences and knowledge to the table and respectfully engaging with each other.

However, it is often not enough to just hire a diverse group of employees. That is an important first step, but once the right people are hired, it is essential that every team member works to promote a more inclusive environment. Crucial to understanding our own role in this effort is recognizing the most innocuous ways we obstruct inclusivity. After self-evaluation, there are two essential tactics we must take: promoting empathy and combatting microagressions.

Cultivating a work environment based on empathy involves implementing programs and initiatives that will elicit positive engagement from team members at every level. Setting up programs for mentorship and affinity groups is a great way to connect employees with people outside of their usual circle.

Mentor programs that focus specifically on under-represented employee groups, such as women or ethnic minorities, can prove monumental in creating a positive learning environment for both mentors and mentees. Not only does the mentee gain advice from an experienced professional on how to navigate challenges, but the mentor also gains valuable insight into the conversations and resources that may currently be lacking in the company. Mentoring relationships that cross race, gender, age and ethnicity are important for people to learn about each other but also to emphasize solving organizational problems together.

Likewise, affinity programs, or employee resource groups, can also help build a more inclusive workplace by connecting Respectemployees who share a similar identity or cultural background and providing them with an avenue to seek support and career advice. These programs give employees the assurance and comfort of knowing their thoughts and opinions are being heard — whether it’s through regular interactions with a higher executive or connecting with team members from similar backgrounds in a familiar setting. Each program has its purpose, but they all aim to encourage team members to listen and connect with the people around them.

The second key step in successfully promoting inclusivity is learning how to combat microaggressions. They don’t have to be obvious, like blatant racial slurs, to be harmful. These actions can be seemingly small, ranging from verbal remarks that demean an employee’s heritage to language or behavior that exclude the feelings of employees who represent a different group. Executives have the responsibility to implement training programs that educate employees about the damaging effects of unconscious bias and microaggressions.

Employees on the receiving end also have a responsibility to combat this behavior and change the conversation moving forward. Knowing how and when to respond when confronted with microaggressions is critical. According to Jody Gray from the University of Minnesota and the American Library Association, the most important thing to do is take a minute to reflect before responding on an assumption. Asking a person to explain or restate their comment can often serve as a check for them to rephrase it in a more inclusive manner. If a response is needed, focus on the event, not the person—this lowers the likelihood of a defensive tone and can make the other person more receptive. Respond how you want to the other person to act, and avoid sarcastic or condescending tones. Gray suggests using yourself as an example: talking about how you’ve “unlearned” certain behaviors is a good way to get on the same level and can help reframe the conversation in a way that makes it click.

Additionally, if someone witnesses what is seemingly a microaggression toward someone else, the witness needs to follow the same steps but adding in the question of “Why am I offended?” Once that understanding occurs, keep the focus on oneself and not the supposed recipient because that person may not feel offended and may not want or need the witness to “come to the rescue.” Instead, follow the same steps of clarification, focusing on the event, using yourself as an example and creating a possible learning opportunity.

At the end of the day, creating an inclusive environment simply comes down to respect—authentic and mutual respect for your team and the common goal you are working to achieve. It’s important that employees understand and utilize the resources and programs that are in place to foster a workplace based on growth and personal development. From top to bottom, employees at all levels and backgrounds want to feel supported and valued for their different perspectives, and achieving inclusion requires full commitment and patience from all team members in order to succeed. What are other programs or initiatives that have been used in your own workplace that have proven successful in promoting diversity and inclusion?