Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Different 4th of July Recipe...

"May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! "  ~Daniel Webster

Recently in St. Louis we celebrated our 4th of July festivities; VP Parade and Fair and PrideFest in record numbers.    What a wonderful tribute to diversity in our city.  I began thinking about how “inclusive” versus “exclusive” we’ve become in our town.  Parade watchers and walkers of every ethnicity, race, color, age and gender… working together to make things successful, enjoying the day’s events together, literally, side by side.   So too, we have this same opportunity to make this happen in the workplace.  But do we?

In preparation for a conference, I read an article by Dr. Helen Turnbull, the CEO of Human Facets LLC and a world recognized thought leader on global inclusion and diversity. In May 2013, she spoke at TEDx on “The Illusion of Inclusion.”  An expert on the complexities of an inclusive workplace culture, Turnbull states, “The words “Diversity” and “Inclusion” are often used in the same sentence as if they are inextricably linked, but, in fact, diversity is the mix and inclusion is the effort that it takes to make the mix work. You may have the right ingredients to bake a cake, but that does not guarantee the cake will be edible. Likewise, having a diverse workforce does not guarantee that you understand how to make that mix work or how to unlock its full potential. Creating an inclusive environment is complex. It requires effort and that we first unpack the complexity before we can begin.”    

I like the analogy she provides and believe it applies to business and to our offices as we each strive to find a successful diversity recipe.  Achieving a good mix requires communication, listening, understanding, team building and above all, leadership.   

In a recently published book, titled, Who’s Who Diversity in Color, the edition profiles St. Louisans who have taken a leadership role in cultivating diversity in our city. According to publisher, Ericca Willis, it will be an annual publication with the mission of documenting and celebrating the achievements of all people of color.  The goal is to highlight the best and brightest in all ethnic communities.

Included in this book is an introduction written by our own Carmen Jacob and NextGen’s CEO. Included is a link to the Who’s Who Diversity in Color website.   I think it is a fitting tribute to all those who work for diversity in our city, and captures what we strive to do at NextGen as we work for a better workforce…a better workplace.

Who’s Who Diversity in Color
Introduction by Carmen Jacob

Never has there been a more important time for a book such as this to be released…to celebrate our progress in diversity, and in so doing, promote our efforts, as we strive for unity, equality, peace and harmony throughout our country and our city.  Who’s Who Diversity in Color showcases a spirited mix of those who are dedicated to fostering a new St. Louis…a better place for all to live, work, learn and invest in.  

This beautiful book provides a platform for discussion, for as we recognize individual achievement, we can emerge as a more powerful collective.  Simply, we can learn from each other and support each other to help pave the way for new opportunities for all.    

My company is in the business of technology, but it is the people behind the technology who make innovation happen and positive change.  In our industry, we are all about making connections, these connections are happening across the globe and at sometimes fractions of a second.  More connections create more communication.  More communication requires sensitivity and greater understanding.  It is in all of our best interest to encourage diversity at every level, as we continue to connect globally, and as the world’s challenges and opportunities remain only a computer click away.   
Most recently, at my company, we have expanded our own definition of diversity. Our definition includes that every individual is unique, and while we not only recognize our differences we embrace them and it involves not only tolerance of these differences, but acceptance and respect.  In addition, we not only include race and gender when we talk about diversity, but also ethnicity and, age, physical abilities/ disabilities, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

 It is the charge for all of us to help create an environment to support our dynamic differences and the many powerful dimensions that diversity affords. 

 In my work, I have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life who are dedicated to education, civic progress, volunteerism, charitable giving, workplace equality and new business development; working to achieve a better quality of life for all.  I believe that it is diversity, which literally colors our world, changes the day-to-day ordinary happenings into something extraordinary for the future.  Who’s Who Diversity in Color is emblematic of all those who have taken a leadership position, championing diversity, working for unity and equal opportunity…helping to create the extraordinary.  

As some of you know, I am a native of Guatemala, a Hispanic woman who has found tremendous opportunity in this country.  The support and encouragement I have experienced throughout these years in business has had a tremendous positive effect on my professional life.  It is in this spirit that I work to pass on that legacy of giving all people a chance…a chance to grow both personally and professionally in order to pursue their dreams in such a country as ours.  For this experience and for the many people just like those profiled in this creative and important publication, I am truly grateful.  

I am very excited and proud to be a part of these efforts and applaud all those who support diversity in our workplace, in our neighborhoods, in business and our community.  

Carmen Jacob

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