Two Ten’s WIFI Group is back in action with a series of diversity-focused virtual panels.
For the first discussion, a group of power players gathered on Thursday for ‘Diversity, Equality and Inclusion: How to Make It a Priority at Work.”
The panelists included Rosalind Reeves, VP of talent, diversity and organizational capabilities at Foot Locker; Michelle Marshall, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Puma; Tracey McLeod, CEO / founder of TIEM; and April Dinwoodie, independent consultant. The conversation was moderated by Susan Im, senior director of HR partnerships at Caleres.
Each of the panelists opened up about their unique paths in the industry — and the challenges they’ve faced as women and women of color in a business that was dominated by white men for so long.
As the diversity and inclusion conversation moves to the next level, belonging is a critical part of the equation, the women said.
“I think of diversity and inclusion being more the tangible thing,” Reeves said. “Belonging starts to move more into how I feel. It’s more about the emotional connection that an individual has within the group or the organization. There’s action required on both parts.”
Reeves noted that millennial and Gen Z team members feel more comfortable showing their true selves at work compared with older generations. “When I was coming up, I wasn’t comfortable enough to share what I was really feeling,” Reeves said, noting that emotional connectivity between managers and their employees is key.
That’s why it’s so important for managers to be equipped with the right tools to help them give their teams a genuine sense of belonging. That starts with having the right diversity and inclusion resources within an organization.
“Let’s be real: In January 2020, many offices were laying off their diversity staff. Diversity was sitting in the HR corner. And then in summer 2020, you saw the profession in the spotlight,” Marshall said, referring to the country’s racial reckoning that unfolded in the weeks and months following the murder of George Floyd.
Now as employees return to the office and executives tackle the belonging part of the equation, mental health and wellness initiatives are key, according to Marshall.
McLeod said it all starts with enabling people to feel comfortable in being candid. “There’s a lot more conversation and allowing people the space to be heard,” she said.
For Dinwoodie, the pandemic has given every organization a roadmap about how to forge ahead with intentionality and precision.
“We’ve moved through something that makes diversity and inclusion real and relevant,” she said. “[It gave us the opportunity] to be better at what we do personally and professionally.”