The importance of curating a diverse and inclusive workforce is at the height of cultural awareness right now. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Worth’s first panel at our recent Women & Worth Summit featured two panelists committed to doing that work. Raeshem Nijhon, founder of Culture House, and Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs took to the stage to discuss how to continue to raise awareness and implement realistic strategies to help organizations thrive.
This session was moderated by Gloria Feldt, cofounder and president of Take The Lead and author of Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take the Lead for (Everyone’s) Good, which was recently published by Worth Books. Feldt started off the conversation by asking both panelists the same question: “How do we seize this moment?” Hoffman took the opportunity to answer this question with a call to action, saying that an increased amplification of companies who are taking strong steps forward toward creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable society is necessary to maintain the momentum that we, as a society, have generated. Taking the lead herself, Hoffman recognized the work of Dan Schulman of PayPal, noting that he is approaching his business from a “people, process and profit perspective” and is committed to the mission of equity. She also acknowledged the “under-the-radar” work at Carnegie Hall, where there is a conscious effort being made to increase diversity on its board of trustees. Nijhon, who is a changemaker in the entertainment world, took a slightly different perspective, noting that “the images that we create have a deep impact on the cultural script,” and it is therefore important to elevate and popularize movies, TV shows and podcasts that are dedicated to portraying diverse casts and diverse stories.
Noting that diversity, inclusion and racial injustice are topics now being discussed across all branches of our society, Feldt addressed her next question to Hoffman, asking her how companies can institute effective plans for increased diversity and inclusion. Hoffman replied that one of the frustrations amongst the Black community is that they are continually being asked to both educate their colleagues and friends about the ways their community is being marginalized and to provide solutions to this problem. Hoffman emphasized that it is not the responsibility of Black people to be this resource, but rather it is the responsibility of employers to hire experts to make sure that they are cultivating an inclusive and healthy workplace culture. She also says that “companies need to systematize inclusion, equity and diversity work” and that they need to have a “comprehensive plan that you roll out in phases and then [you need to] hold yourself accountable.”
One of the ways that Nijhon has been implementing tangible steps toward DEI at Culture House is to emphasize the importance of leniency and understanding. She explained how she encourages each of her employees to sit down and make a private list—a list of all the ways they have benefited from certain privileges in their lives. “There are so many things in life that give us privilege, it’s not just race and it’s not just class.” Nijhon emphasized that this is a good way to encourage her employees to be aware of where they are situated in the world, and therefore be more open-minded about where others are situated in return.
Oftentimes, profitability and DEI efforts are not considered to have the potential to mutually benefit one another. Adding onto Nijhon’s point about encouraging a more inclusive mindset in leaders, Hoffman pointed out that utilizing available resources is a way that profitability and inclusivity goals can be aligned. She stressed that “knowledge and network combined drives impact and outcomes for companies.” Feldt doubled down on this topic of profitability versus inclusion efforts asking how we can create revenue models that can address DEI factors and reward not just numeric goals, but the fact that greater diversity results in greater profits. Hoffman stressed that it is not just about having someone with a legal background making sure you are covering all of your bases, it is also about having someone who understands both social and financial returns. Nijhon responded by stressing the impact of institutionalized racism, saying that many policies impact the ability for true inclusion at a production level because many small, Black-owned companies that have the insight to inform creative projects—like those that Culture House is committed to creating—run into roadblocks because of financial policies that do not support the needs of small businesses. She emphasized that in order to be able to incorporate the valuable insights of smaller companies, financial policy itself needs to be rewritten to be more inclusive.
Covering micro and macro methods of problem-solving surrounding issues around inequality, our panelists had an informed and insightful discussion about the practical ways that they are working to create a more inclusive world. The alignment of both professional and social cultures was heavily featured in this panel, and the speakers demonstrated how organizations like Culture Shift Labs and Culture House are working to make inclusive representation the norm.
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