Whitman Hosts Diversity Panel in NYC with Industry Professionals

Over 80 Whitman students spent time in New York City Jan. 6-8, where they had the opportunity to network with companies such as Citi, Goldman Sachs, NBC Universal, Tommy Hilfiger, as well as a variety of others. 

Students visited respected companies in groups divided by their professional interests of finance, marketing and retail. They were able to learn more about the industries and talk to senior leaders who discussed what they look for in talent.

Diane Crawford, executive director for institutional culture, also attended. Crawford joined the Martin J. Whitman School of Management in May 2019. Her role is to promote Whitman’s core values with a special emphasis on inclusion. 

Crawford explains that the tours of companies provided students valuable feedback about the workspace and professions housed within. However, she states, “I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to give the students another perspective of the field and industries they’re going into.” 

Crawford hosted a diversity panel on Tuesday night of the trip. She adds, “I wanted to ensure students would get a deeper exposure to what these industries are doing in the spaces of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Crawford was able to secure representatives from EY, GIANT Foods Stores, KPMG and Synchrony Bank to speak on the Industry Diversity and Inclusion Panel. All of these companies have earned accolades demonstrating an effort to make the workplaces more inclusive and diverse. KPMG, as well as EY, has earned a spot on the Top 50 DiversityInc list. Synchrony has made Forbes’ best company to work for list and GIANT Foods is listed by the Human Rights Council as a leading employer for equality.

Panelists spoke about recruitment tactics used to find exemplary employees and what the interview process looks like. They also divulged company examples of how applying diversity and inclusion in the workplace acted as a business imperative and enhanced revenue, innovation and employee satisfaction. Each panelist also provided students with sound advice for their future.

Tasha Youngblood Brown, managing director at EY, and Lois Jeffers, diversity and inclusion assistant director, discussed how the EY recognizes employees and the need to create a space where they feel supported. Brown shared more about EY’s “Belonging Conversations,” which are leadership lead small group conversations. These help leaders get to know all of the employees and help bring people together. 

Brown suggests that students should, “Find your people. Not just people who look like you, but find your people wherever you go. Find someone opposite of you and you will learn tremendously.”

Jeffers adds, “Recognize the value of what you bring to the table and help amplify the voices who aren’t always heard.

GIANT Foods’ Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager, Stacey Miller, shares more about the six new employee resource groups that were launched to focus on how they are paying back to the community and growing the organization.

Miller’s advice to students was, “Be passionate. Be you!”

William Bradshaw, national human resources diversity and inclusion program manager at KPMG also spoke about the focus on professional development for under-represented talent, which aims to help re-energize and re-engage employees leading to higher retention. Other initiatives implemented by the Employee Resource Group (ERG) at KPMG include a gender-neutral dress code and Black ERG “phone-a-friend.” Bradshaw shares that the phrase “Help me understand what you mean by that” is the best phrase you can use when someone isn’t being culturally competent.

When talking about interviewing he also shares that you shouldn’t be afraid to brag a little. He says, “Say what makes you whole as a person. Show up authentically, show up wholesome and brag a little bit.”

Synchrony’s Assistant Vice President of Leadership Programs and Campus Recruiting, Vincent Bond, encouraged everyone to be a part of the affinity groups, not just employees who identify with the named affiliation (HN+, LGBTQ+, etc.)

Bond echoed KPMG’s comments about how deep the support of employees leads to retention. He shares, “The footprints that ERGs leave can really impact an organization.”

Crawford advocates, “Our students are potential candidates for employment, but also need to realize they’re interviewing companies that they think they are going to be happy and engaged working for.”

Crawford was inspired to take her work to Whitman after spearheading diversity initiatives in other sectors. “I can look back at my 10 years with the Hershey Company and the initiatives I was instrumental in putting in place and how they changed the whole climate of employees there. What attracted me to Whitman was the opportunity to do the same thing and ensure that anyone that comes into this school feels a sense of belonging,” she adds.

Crawford is applying a holistic approach to enhancing Whitman. Her three pillars of improvement are ongoing initiatives. The first pillar is to recruit and retain diverse staff and faculty. Secondly, she strives to engage people and get all departments to see the impact they have on enhancing the university for others. Finally, she plans to create ongoing platforms of educational resources anyone can use to learn more about diversity, inclusion and equity. Crawford shares, “If you don’t intentionally include, you intentionally exclude.” 

Whitman will be implementing a variety of initiatives this coming semester to engage the campus community in diversity initiatives. On Jan. 22 and 23, staff and faculty will be attending professional development sessions to improve their understanding of diversity and inclusion. On Jan. 24, the Whitman community is invited to a “fireside chat” in the Milton room where students, faculty and staff are invited to have an open dialogue about diversity and how Whitman may make meaningful change.

Learn about more of Whitman’s diversity and inclusion events and how to get involved.

Maya Bingaman
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