The United States is becoming more segregated both politically and socially than it has been in many years. A recent conference aimed at slowing this drift identified as one significant obstacle the groups who tend to be absent from such discussions.
What’s needed to advance efforts toward true diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s workplace was the primary focus of The Forum on Workplace Inclusion’s three-day conference last week at the Minneapolis Convention Center, hosted by the University of St. Thomas. What began 30 years ago as a two-hour video conference now attracts as many as 2,000 local, national and international attendees from the corporate, community, social justice, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, among others.
Last week’s 30th-anniversary Forum had at least 1,600 attendees, The Forum Executive Director Steve Humerickhouse announced. It included 60-minute and 90-minute workshops and three-hour “deep dive” seminars on topics related to workplace diversity and inclusion.
During his welcoming remarks, Humerickhouse told the audience that there are too many “missing voices” at such gatherings, which challenges achieving diversity and inclusion in today’s workplace. He later expanded on his remarks for the MSR.
“There are a lot of missing voices at any forum,” Humerickhouse pointed out. “There are whole groups who are not part of this. These are the people who are disaffected in one way or another. They see themselves included in a zero-sum game – if one group of folk wins, then [the other] must lose.”
Many factors come into play here, including the fear of losing one’s job, Humerickhouse continued. Nonetheless, “All voices must be included [in] diversity and inclusion in the real world. But how do we make space for these folk?”
He listed among the missing voices “the Trump voters, folk on the religious right or social conservatives in general,” Humerickhouse stressed. “I realize that I am talking about my own family. My own socially conservative, religiously conservative, racist in some cases family members. I am a product of that family.”
Target Corporation Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornell told the gathering last week, “When we have a deep understanding…create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and think purposefully, we…help create a better society for all.”
“Diversity is one of the university’s convictions,” University of St. Thomas President Dr. Julie Sullivan added. “We strive to create a vibrant, diverse community in which, together, we work for a more just and inclusive society.”
Diversity and inclusion can’t be just buzzwords, Humerickhouse said. “We cannot solve our country or world issues unless we are all involved. We are talking about diversity in thought [as well as] inclusion. They are as much about our culture in America and the world as anyone…”
Earvin Johnson and Michele Norris were The Forum’s two featured keynote speakers. Their appearances and remarks will be covered in subsequent articles.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.