Inspiring Inclusion: Build Relationships and Accept Feedback

I recently attended the Furman Center for Innovative Leadership’s International Women’s Day panel discussion on “Inspiring Inclusion” in the workplace and community. Panelists included Tracie Frese of Upstate International, Adela Mendoza of the Hispanic Alliance and Courtney Hicks of TransparenSi.

I was surprised to hear Frese express concern about the lack of African Americans participating in their programs and community events. I’ve never heard someone of her stature inquire about why there were no African Americans in attendance. It demonstrated to me that she cares about bridging the gap between diverse groups of people.

To solve the problem, Frese is building personal relationships with leaders in the Black community, to create trust and get honest feedback. “If you don’t like what we’re offering that’s fine, but if we’re not meeting you where do you need to be met in order to participate, we need to change that.” In my opinion, the community needs more of that. More people who are eager to establish rapport.

The panelists discussed the importance of being a leader of inclusion in both the workplace and your community. A woman in the crowd asked what advice they would give a woman who has an idea that will benefit her community but doesn’t have the confidence to do it on her own?

(This question really resonated with me. It’s always scary taking that leap of faith with no way to know the outcome.)

The panelists offered some great responses.

“It’s all about the community you cultivate and who is there to support you, hold you accountable, and also push you in the right direction,” said Courtney Hicks DEI Communication Strategist and Founder of TransparenSi.

I like this idea that, if there is no community, then create your own. Create your own support network of people who’ve been where you are and are at where you want to be.

Adela Mendoza recommends finding your own champions. “Just start doing it,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be huge. Remind yourself it’s okay to be afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear; we’re just pushing ourselves through our fear.”

The panelists inspired me to build relationships, find my champions, and just do it, even if I’m scared.

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Hallie Brown

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