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Discovering Diversity

I was excited to attend the Phoenix DLA Diversity Conference and Inclusion awards held on October 28, 2016. DLA - Diversity Leadership Alliance was founded 15 years ago by Christine French and Marion Kelly (Director of Community Affairs at the Mayo Clinic). The DLA organization facilitates monthly workshops for diversity leaders so that they can implement valuable tools in their organizations. In addition, the Alliance formed a Youth Leadership Academy to teach students leadership skills and give them assistance while transitioning from school to work.

As a guest, I was proud to sit at the Boeing table, one of the event’s sponsors, and enjoy the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the extraordinary facility where it was held. We received goodie bags upon registration and were served a continental breakfast. Later, we were treated to an incredible lunch.

I was not able to stay for the last workshop due to work obligations, but regardless, the ones I attended were remarkable. As someone who represents diversity in the workplace and is passionate about supporting this cause, I was truly inspired to take an additional step and join this organization. At their next planning meeting, I will learn how I can personally contribute to their mission.

All of the speakers and workshops were inspiring as they explored topics on race, culture, gender, privilege, bias and the topic very dear to me, visible and invisible labels we wear. One of the most powerful speeches I heard that day was a speech delivered by a first year ASU 18-year old honors student. When she started her speech she asked: “When you look at me, what do you see”? I saw her as a pretty, outgoing, personable teenager. As she continued, she described her family’s, friends’ and teachers’ similar perceptions of her. I wondered what in the world could be her challenge. When she mentioned she was struggling with depression, I was surprised and touched. Thankfully, this amazing young lady discovered an inner strength and her family’s and friends’ support to overcome her struggles. Her situation resonated with me because immediately I started wondering about other people’s perception of me in my own environment. I remember exploring this topic in my first book. Most of the time we worry more about how other people see us. But, it is more important how we see ourselves. Our personal perceptions are the basis for our decisions and actions. These perceptions fuel our confidence-levels and influence our success in both our personal and professional lives.

A workshop “Unconscious Bias” given by Kelli McLoud-Schingen was very impactful. Kelli poses an interesting question: “Have you often avoided communicating with people from different cultures because you felt you have nothing in common?" We learned that within 200 milliseconds (0.2 seconds) of meeting someone our brain unconsciously categorizes them as “like” or "do not like”. If we sense a difference we are not used to, our defense mechanisms kick in. In order to reduce bias and improve communication, Kelli believes all people should tell their story. Her presentation and silent skit demonstrated and proved to us how much bias plays in our own lives even though we are all aware of the subject. Most of our biases form as early as 6 years old. Kelli suggested that we are aware of the conversations around us before we turn six. To help us slow our judgment process down before we make a judgment, Kelli presented the DIN model: Describe the facts, Interpret (do consider the other person’s perspective), and Navigate.

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