Expert guides how to bring inclusion and diversity to work

“They matter in every industry,” she said.
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 10:14 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With questions of racial justice at the nation’s forefront, one expert says more people than before are seeking inclusion and diversity in their workplaces.

“I’m acknowledged for who I am, and I’m supported to do my best and to contribute at my best. That is the culture that we want to strive for,” Binnu Palta Hill, the associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the Wisconsin School of Business, said.

Palta Hill is also a consultant, workshopping with companies around the nation on different aspects of inclusion. She turns to research suggesting employees perform better when they feel like they belong and says the topic matters at every industry.

She used an example of a cashier at a small business, interacting with a customer. “What our primitive part of our brain does is use judgments about how competent people are and how trustworthy people are, how intelligent people are. That rather we pause—[and ask,] ‘What journey must this person have taken? What are parts of their identity that are influencing my judgment of them?’”

One of her clients is The QTI Group, based in Madison. Christina Ortuzar, a senior employment specialist, said that during the 4 years she has worked for the company she has felt “included and listened to.”

She added, “That is such a big thing where I can say my opinion, and it’s heard and its valued. I’ve always felt that way. I’d like to think that everyone I work with has felt that way.”

The group is in a unique position when it comes to creating inclusive working environments.

Ortuzar explained, “We’re recruiting for other companies. We’re coming up with HR strategies for other companies. That’s why I realized we have such an outreach, that we [within the company] need a really solid program.”

Already, Ortuzar said that the company has taken steps towards inclusion by distributing newsletters about allyship, asking for feedback through surveys and supporting a committee on “belonging, inclusion and diversity” (BID).

According to Palta Hill, leaders must demonstrate—not just talk about—a change in culture for it to be sustainable.

In Ortuzar’s eyes, leaders have demonstrated a desire for inclusion, for example, by supporting the BID committee’s launch. She mentioned, the CEO gave the committee the platform to speak at a company-wide meeting.

“This is a journey for all of us,” Ortuzar said. “We’re all learning what the best way is to do things. It’s something that we realized we still have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot to learn. We’re starting by educating our staff and educating our clients. That is something we realized is going to take time, but we want to put the work at the forefront.”

Palta Hill offered two tangible takeaways: “Pay attention to what surprises you about people” and “practice vulnerability.”

Vulnerability, she said, “is such an untapped emotion. It’s an enormous way to connect with people.”

For those working from home, Palta Hill said she encourages reflecting on the ability to work remotely, calling it a privilege.

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