On a recent Friday, the Alliance convened the second edition of our Bring Your Own Bias (BYOB) workshop generously sponsored by Amgen. We were again led by UCI Law School Dean, Song Richardson, a national expert on implicit bias, and Julie Hill, Board Member of Anthem as well as Lord Abbett, and Vice-chair at the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. The theme of this BYOB was “Leadership Lessons from the Frontline” and was focused on the actions and solutions that can be taken to achieve a truly inclusive workplace.
I knew the group we convened was sincere and genuine in their visions for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I wasn’t surprised to hear how some companies had begun as early as 4+ years ago to change policy in hiring and promotions, to be transparent about pay equity and to work towards cultural inclusiveness. What did surprise me, however, was the sheer depth of understanding, accountability and sincere desire from the 17 participants - leaders of major SoCal organizations - to not rest until a real sense of belonging has been achieved.
As before, we wanted to provide a safe place for the guests to speak freely and therefore will not publicly list the names of the guests nor the companies they represented, but it gave me hope and an optimistic outlook to witness so many major employers care so much. It wasn’t for the threat of lawsuits, nor our “cancel culture”, nor directives from a faceless Board that was inspiring these leaders to action. It was merely (and powerfully) the will to do good -- to simply do what is right.
I was proud to witness the Alliance’s mission and our fundamental belief that “Diversity Fuels Innovation” being carried out in real time. We were able to connect organizations to each other for brainstorming and ideation. The participants were able to immediately share resources, learn from each other and glean a better understanding that, without that networking, would take so much longer to achieve.
What did we learn?
- We learned that listening sessions with employees are critical. The listening part of that is key: Listen to understand.
- We learned that transparency, while hard, is crucial. That the accountability that comes with that can be humbling, but the actions employed to right inequity are nearly impossible without that transparency - and the trust gained by it is invaluable.
- We learned that having targets and measuring the data are necessary toward improvement, but that the most important component is for employees to have a feeling of belonging and that is difficult to measure (which takes us back up to #1: listening).
Most of all, we learned that while individual action makes a difference, when we convene as a region - sharing ideas, best practices, frustrations and obstacles - we are inspired and encouraged. This networking helps the leaders of our organizations have the resources they need to create a better environment - one in which we all feel we belong.
If you are interested in learning more about the Alliance, our DEI efforts, being connected to resources or participating in future events, please email me at email@example.com.