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PMA virtual town hall

Bringing added value to your company through diversity and inclusivity

This week’s PMA Virtual Town Hall explored diversity and inclusion in the work place. Doug Bohr, PMA’s Executive Director for the Center of Growing Talent, explained: “Diversity is a fact. From a business perspective, our talent pool is made up out of diverse people. That is why during this town hall we will explore what we mean by diversity and inclusion, why they matter to our businesses and what companies can do to create a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace.”

The panelists of this week's virtual town hall were Rachel Cheeks-Givan, James Harris, and Johnny C. Taylor Jr.

Diversity versus inclusion: definitions
The first topic of discussion was what diversity and inclusion really mean, and how they are different from each other. Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is the President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. He shares: “People often times conflate the terms diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about bringing together different types of people from different backgrounds. This has many different dimensions, but it is essentially the easier part. Inclusion is more challenging: this is about how to take a group of different people and make sure that they all feel like they belong, are valued, and are working toward the same goal.”

One aspect that was agreed upon by panelists Rachel Cheeks-Givan, who is the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Pfizer, and James Harris, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at H-E-B, is that while diversity and inclusion are different from each other, it is essential to work with both. “You can’t do only one or the other, you need to do both in order to be effective,” says Cheeks-Givan. Harris adds: “Diversity is the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and inclusion is the ‘how.’ Each of these are needed as part of the equation.”

The importance of diversity and inclusion
One of the topics discussed by the panel was why diversity and inclusion are vital for businesses. Cheeks-Givan shares: “When you leverage diversity and inclusion as a business advantage, you bring so much added value to your company. The most important benefit is higher levels of innovation: when you embrace and value the different perspectives you will be rewarded with new and innovative ideas that more fully address the world we live in today, as well as more fully address the markets you are trying to reach.”

Harris agrees, saying: “We all have flat spots in our areas of knowledge and experience. This makes us uniquely different, and ensuring you have a diverse team at your table and that you work in an inclusive manner will help you fill up these flat spots, which will lead to increased innovation. Diversity is not done at the expense of the business; it is the business.”

Creating a diverse and inclusive environment
The big question  is, of course, how is this achieved? According to Cheeks-Givan, the best place to start is with the data. “Use data to find out where you are now on diversity and inclusivity within your company, and how it compares to others around you. Then you can use this data to help you develop key initiatives and a strategy.”

The panelists all agree that having a clear strategy is one of the most important steps toward reaching diversity and inclusivity. “Creating a roadmap on where you want to go and how you want to get there is one of the most important things,” says Harris. “Furthermore, intentionality is very important. When you take steps toward change, there will always be intended and unintended consequences, but if you have a clear roadmap you will be aware of this and know how to approach them.”

Taylor Jr. emphasizes: “Companies also need to be very honest about the current culture within their company. Often, companies will project their desired culture as their actual culture, which is misleading. In order to have true progress, companies need to acknowledge where they are now and what changes need to happen for them to get to the culture they aspire to have." He adds: “Our Society's website has resources for companies to make changes to become more inclusive and diverse.”

Next week there won't be a PMA Virtual Town Hall. Instead, you can join PMA’s Foodservice Delivered virtual conference which will run from July 20th through 24th. Registration for this event is free.

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