This week Minneapolis will be the launching site for a series of conferences for Blacks seeking corporate leadership positions.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts will host “Accelerating Impact for Black People,” an all-day conference Saturday September 12, 9 am to 6 pm.
Sponsored by the Dignitas Agency, started by Stacy Parson, Cheryl Burrell, a former 3M chief diversity officer now running her own consulting firm, and Angela Taylor, who has worked in the WNBA league office and three franchises, including her present role as Atlanta Dream general manager.
“One of the things that Angela, Cheryl and I focus on in our work is the reality and the toll being the only person [of color] in the room takes on you,” said Parson in a recent MSR phone interview. “Some of us are really conscious of that, and some of us try to step over it and go about our business. Regardless of the way we approach it, it’s the real thing.”
She recalls a recent experience with a White colleague who seemed uncomfortable being the only non-person of color in the room. “This real capable person was really impacted by this,” said Parson. “It [made] me realize what we do literally all day, every day.”
Parson said the candid talks she shared with Burnett and Taylor made her realize “how hard it is being Black” in corporate settings, and led them to design something similar but on a larger scale. “We thought why not have these same conversations with 150 people in the room, to create a broader platform for people to have that same type of experience?”
“All of us are in new territory, and we are trying to leverage each other’s expertise to broaden our impact on our company, and to lean on people outside of the three of us to help us achieve the mission that we are focusing on,” noted Parson, who regularly works with large companies, start-ups and technology firms on “performance effectiveness.”
Saturday’s conference also will include scheduled speakers as local broadcaster Lea B. Olsen, 3M Health Care Business Group Head of Strategy and Business Development Head Robert Befidi, Jr., General Mills Snack Division President Anton Vincent, Paul Dixon, a Walt Disney senior sales manager, and Rod Young, the CEO and president of Delta Dental of Minnesota.
The conference can help “change the landscape of leadership, and add more voices and a broader perspective to important conversations both in corporations, government and education, and all across the different aspects of society,” said Parson. She added that networking — especially among Blacks not originally from the area — could occur as well.
“Not everyone who is Black knows every Black person in Minneapolis. One of the things we would love to happen as an outcome of this event is to put Black people in Minneapolis in better touch with each other,” said Parson, who hopes to take lessons learned from the Minneapolis conference and apply it to future sessions, tentatively planned for 2016 in Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and again in the Twin Cities.
She and her Dignitas partners want to help others “figure what the next step is and ask for help early and often, and not get caught up in being perfect and be right all the time,” said Parson. “Instead focus on being better. That is what we are hoping to get people to understand” at the conference on Saturday, she concluded.
For more information, go to the Dignitas Agency web site: www.dignitasagency.com
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.