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CultureNov 23, 2020

Credera Listens: Prioritizing Difficult Conversations and Creating a More Equitable Workplace

Kyler Starks

On Tuesday, September 8, Credera hosted the fourth and final Credera Listens: Respecting Differences and Embracing Diversity for a Thriving, Inclusive Workplace panel. In this panel, we hosted five leaders from across the professional world to share their perspectives, experiences, and thoughts on how we can seek to understand, amplify our voices, and advocate for others in a constructive way in both our personal and professional lives.

Credera is focused on addressing issues related to race-, gender-, and sexual-based discrimination head on. To stand in solidarity with those who have been disenfranchised and discriminated against in our society, Credera’s President and CEO Justin Bell, along with the rest of Credera’s leadership, is focused on not only serving our clients but also helping and positively impacting each other as mentors, teammates, and allies.

During this final panel, we focused on diving deeper into topics of race and discrimination in professional life and how we can begin to engage in difficult conversations to establish a more equitable environment in the workplace. We gathered several panelists to provide varying perspectives on these topics: Nancy Lamons, managing principal at the Polyphony Group; Mansoor Kazi, partner at Bain & Company; Rohit Srivastava, CEO at Vertigo Advisors; Jennifer Carter, president at EWF International; and James Pogue, national keynote speaker on diversity and inclusion.

Below are some of the main takeaways from the conversation:

On why prioritizing this conversation is important

When confronting and addressing issues of discrimination, panelists explain being different should not be viewed in a negative light. Kazi shared that from an early age he knew he was different and everyone else was normal. Speaking as a minority, this is a common refrain due to bullying and discrimination throughout childhood.

Despite those differences, Kazi shared details from a trying time in the aftermath of a shooting near the University of North Carolina. “[I] learned to embrace what was different about myself versus trying to hide it,” said Kazi. Embracing differences allow minorities to feel comfortable bringing their whole self to the workplace.

Pogue spoke in moving terms about his childhood and how he overcame expectations placed on him because he was different. Pogue highlighted the understood but rarely vocalized expectation that African Americans have to work twice as hard to succeed simply due to their race. “All kids don’t need to go through what I went through,” Pogue said. He urged us not only to seek to understand where others come from and what makes us different, but to take tactical and tangible steps to enact the changes we want.

Srivastava shared that early on he had not owned his voice like he should. “Try to find the moments [when] you can speak your own opinion,” Srivastava encouraged. These moments help to show that despite being different everyone belongs in the same work and leadership spaces.

On how to be effective leaders on difficult topics:

Throughout the conversation, panelists spoke to the difficulty of addressing societal issues within the workplace and how effective leaders can encourage team members to engage.

“Leaders should use their access and authority to provide for opportunities to create a more equitable working environment,” Carter said. “Leader should focus on two words: understand and include.”

Leaders must understand how their organizations function culturally, and how voices may become disenfranchised. Effectively use inclusion to create a seat at the table for someone else.

“[Leaders] need to be more comfortable exploring how things are impacting the workplace,” Lamons said. “Especially when it comes to the current events affecting their employees.”

Employees don’t live within a vacuum where social issues have no impact. Today’s leaders who understand how these issues impact employees in a real and tangible way can help to combat negativity in the workplace like microaggressions, discrimination, and others.

On how teams can change organizational culture around inclusivity:

“Allyship is critically important and I wouldn’t have made it here without allies,” Kazi said. Allies, according to Forbes, are people who actively promote and aspire to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive, and conscious efforts that benefit the organization as a whole.

“No one gets promoted alone,” said Kazi. “Don’t think it just happens—sponsors have a direct impact over your career.” Allies are helpful in advocating for underrepresented groups and can serve as sponsors in crucial career conversations.

On how to be successful in creating a more equitable workplace:

To close, Kazi challenged everyone to be a connector by listening, providing opportunities, and advocating for others when we can.

Moving Forward

Thank you to Nancy Lamons, Mansoor Kazi, Rohit Srivastava, Jennifer Carter, and James Pogue for your thoughtful wisdom and vulnerable sharing.

The Credera Listens series provided an opportunity to hear from leaders from various backgrounds and to provide a forum in the workplace to speak honestly and candidly about the issues facing individuals around the world. Though this panel will certainly not address all problems or heal all wounds we, as Credera, endeavor to be the change we want to see.

If you'd like to learn more about the Credera Listens initiative, please visit this page.

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