Overcome Stubborns

Taking the Long View Toward Progress in Workplace Diversity

“Things get hard when they’re working, but that doesn’t mean we let up,” said Loren Hudson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast Cable. “Right now is our time to remain committed to supporting our teammates and communities because we have all learned that DEI is a key part of how we win talent, business space, and how we make an impact in the communities where we live and work.” DEI initiatives across the country are being politically scrutinized, resulting in bans and rollbacks in colleges and companies. Yet in the midst of it all, Hudson remains steadfast in her stance in supporting DEI.In a fireside chat at From Day One’s February virtual conference, with Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent at CNBC, NBCUniversal, Hudson discussed the current world of DEI and how companies can maintain their progress in driving change.Placing DEI at the CoreA CNBC survey found that nearly 80% of survey respondents wanted to work for a company that valued DEI issues, showing the importance of DEI to employees and job seekers alike.DEI initiatives extend far beyond just the workplace, Hudson said. “[DEI] touches so many aspects of our lives, from personal to professional, to our business to our community,” Hudson said. “At the heart of what is important, DEI practices, initiatives, mindset and focus are good for the business, people leadership, employee experience, and community activism.”Leaders can often assess the success of DEI initiatives and programs against business value and employee experience, Hudson says. However, leaders who lead DEI initiatives with intentionality can be more fruitful in the long term.“When I look at businesses who are focusing intentionally on this space, their most senior leaders have said, “This is important to us as leaders, as a business and as a community partner,” Hudson said. “Many organizations that can say that they were successful in this space are because it connects back to what the organization stands for.”Driving Equity Beyond the WorkplaceDuring the pandemic, Hudson realized there was a sudden need for internet access by community members who traditionally did not have regular access.Sharon Epperson, right, interviewed Loren Hudson, left, at From Day One's February virtual conference on the topic of Getting to the Next Stage of Diversity and Belonging (photo by From Day One)As a leader of a telecommunications company, Hudson knew her role was more than just driving change and equity in the workplace, it also meant driving change in the communities they served.By partnering with community organizations, Hudson and her team at Comcast were able to provide free Wi-Fi centers and resources for the communities. “We provided broadband while other partners provided the site and lunch or breakfast,” Hudson said.The success of these sites wouldn’t have come together if community members hadn’t raised their concerns, Hudson says.“Without partners telling us what the people are whispering or loudly saying, we wouldn't necessarily know all of the things we may know,” Hudson said. “So, talking to partners who are closest to the community members is key because they provide us perspective and provide insights to what their community or their members are saying.”Embracing Outside PerspectivesBy encouraging a growth mindset for employees, leaders can help cultivate a more inclusive work environment. This can aid the progress of DEI as team members are more committed to learning and growing. To help foster a growth mindset in teams, Hudson recommends actively looking for outside perspectives.“I bring other CEOs and their teams in, and we share what we’re doing, what keeps us up at night, and what’s going well. We can play off each other and do joint things to have greater impact, and that’s important across whatever line of business we’re doing,” Hudson said. “It’s creating this space for new fresh perspectives by inviting people from different backgrounds to come in and share those perspectives. That’s how we learn and grow and innovate.”Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

BY Wanly Chen | February 29, 2024

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The From Day One Newsletter is a monthly roundup of articles, features, and editorials on innovative ways for companies to forge stronger relationships with their employees, customers, and communities.

Overcome Stubborns
By Mary Pieper | February 26, 2024

Responding to Pushback and Creating More Inclusive Environments That Value Diversity

Even though diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace leads to better financial outcomes, greater social impact, and more satisfied employees, DEI efforts are “being used as part of the culture wars right now,” said Malia Lazu. Lazu, CEO of the Urban Labs at MIT and author of the book From Intention to Impact: A Practical Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spoke in a fireside chat during From Day One’s February Virtual Conference. “It’s important for us to remember that DEI is not against the wall because it’s a failing endeavor. It’s against the wall because people are scared of losing what they think they have now,” Lazu told moderator Jeanhee Kim. “When you’re privileged, fairness feels like a step down.”Corporate leaders and managers must truly believe that “DEI is the platform of the future” if they are going to have the will to fight the inevitable pushback, Lazu said. Although political pressure can be intimidating, organizations can gain the courage to continue their DEI endeavors from realizing the pushback is coming from less than 25% of the U.S. population, says Lazu. “This isn’t about politics for you, this is about competing in a global economy. And in 20 years, this country is going to look very different.”Acknowledging the ProblemOrganizations first need to find their gaps in DEI before they can resolve them, says Lazu. And that realization can cause discomfort.Journalist Jeanhee Kim interviewed author Malia Lazu in a fireside chat titled “How to Respond to the Pushback to Create More Inclusive Environments That Honor and Value Diversity” (photo by From Day One)“I often tell my clients if we’re not uncomfortable, we haven’t started working yet,” Lazu said. It’s important to understand that racism isn’t just an interpersonal problem but systemic one, said Lazu. “It exists whether you’re a nice person or not,” she said, noting that in American school’s, children are taught about Manifest Destiny rather than other philosophies that don’t center the white European perspective. Once people understand that institutional racism exists and what causes it, “then we can start deconstructing it,” Lazu said. The Role of Middle Management and HR A top-down approach to DEI won’t make the changes that are needed in the company, according to Lazu. “Where the change gets lost is in middle management,” she said. Middle managers and HR officers can do a lot to create a positive environment for DEI within their companies because “modeling behavior is critically important,” Lazu said. If these individuals aren’t fully invested in DEI and are worried that the company will be getting less qualified employees by hiring more women, for example, they need to learn more about what DEI really means and become more confident with it, says Lazu. Middle managers and HR leaders also need to recognize their power to make changes, whether it’s making sure they are selecting a diverse slate of candidates or even just deciding where to buy coffee from, Lazu says.It’s OK to Make Mistakes While LearningEven those with the best of intentions can make mistakes when it comes to DEI efforts. Lazu says she learned this first-hand when she was helping to organize the first disability fashion show in New England. “It became front and center how ableist I was because I had never been blessed enough to organize with people with disabilities,” she said. “And I couldn’t just walk away from it and say, ‘Oh, well.’”Instead, Lazu asked the disability community, “How do I come back from using the word ‘normal’ when I meant ‘able-bodied’?”“It’s about understanding that if you’re going to do this authentically, like any other relationship, you’re going to step on toes,” she said. “Anyone who has life partners knows, even they will get it wrong sometimes.”That’s why it’s important that companies have a culture of “generosity of interpretation. It’s important to understand that someone tried and missed the mark, and have a reparative practice.” Mary Pieper is a freelancer reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Overcome Stubborns
By Mary Pieper | February 28, 2024

Empowering People With Eating Disorders to Recover at Home

Eating disorders affect nearly one in 10 Americans, and 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of one of these illnesses. However, the United States has a shortage of experts providing treatment, says Dr. Erin Parks, co-founder and chief clinical officer of Equip, a 100% virtual eating disorder treatment program. “I think it’s generous to say that there’s even 5,000 outpatient specialists,” Parks told Lauren Burkavage, senior director of the strategic partnerships team at Accolade, during a From Day One webinar. Another key issue in eating disorder treatment is it requires a multidisciplinary approach to be effective, says Parks. “It’s hard to put together a team because it often takes both medical and mental health professionals to help someone recover,” she said. Equip not only provides a five-person team for each patient, but also lets them recover in their own home. “We think it’s important to be at work, to be at school, to be at soccer practice, to be in their book club, because those are the reasons we recover,” Parks said. “We wanted to make sure treatment was being delivered at home around your schedule instead of having to give up on life to get better.”From an employer’s perspective, Equip results in reduced absenteeism because an employee who is either dealing with an eating disorder themselves or has a child dealing with one doesn’t have to “take them to appointments or travel to a residential treatment center, which many times aren’t closely located to where people live,” Burkavage said.Other Equip AdvantagesThere are four different kinds of treatment for eating disorders: a residential treatment center (RTC), where patients live full-time for a month or more; partial hospitalization (PHP), where the individual stays in a hospital for six to nine hours a day for five to seven days a week; intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), which lasts three hours a day for three to five days a week; and outpatient treatment, which is what Equip provides in a virtual setting.“Right now, about 85% of our patients meet criteria to go to IOP, PHP or residential, but choose to use Equip instead,” she said. One reason is a patient’s insurance might cover care at a residential treatment center, but when they go home, they can’t find a PHP, IOP, or even an outpatient provider.“That really contributes to the fact that 50% of patients usually relapse within a year of treatment, and it’s because treatment doesn’t last that long, just a couple of months,” Parks said. But in the Equip system, “a lot of our patients stay with us for a full year, really getting them to a solid place and giving them more than just a foundation,” she said. “They can see their life without an eating disorder by the time they leave.”Provider Diversity and Peer MentorsThe webinar featured Erin Parks, co-founder and chief clinical officer of Equip (company photo) One thing that prevents people from seeking treatment for eating disorders is the stereotype that they only affect thin, white teenage girls or young women, says Parks. “But the truth is eating disorders don’t discriminate,” she said. “At Equip, we’ve had patients as young as 5, and we’ve had adults in their 70s. Up to 40% of people who suffer are male. It affects all races and ethnicities equally, and it affects people at all areas of the socio-economic spectrum. And probably the most surprising thing is people with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.”Seniors, males, and people of color tend to want a provider that has a similar lived experience as they do, says Parks. In addition, someone who is transgender or gender non-conforming is four to five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than someone who is cisgender, Parks says. “It’s less safe for them to get treatment when they don’t have providers who understand the intersection between their gender identity and their eating disorder,” she said. This is why Equip is dedicated to increasing the diversity of its providers. The organization also has peer mentors, who are employees who have recovered from an eating disorder themselves. “Our patients really love working with their peer mentors because they have a shared identity.” Peer mentors “help to increase motivation, build a life worth living, and figure out why you want to recover from your eating disorder.” Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Accolade, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Mary Pieper is a freelancer reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.



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