When discussing diversity, equity and inclusion, Sara Taylor, president and CEO of Positive Steps Consulting and Taylor-Jones Enterprises, believes everyone has a role.
Taylor served as the keynote speaker for The Daily Record’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit held virtually Tuesday morning.
“I recognize that everyone coming to the summit may be at a different stage of what I call a readiness for the conversation or for the work,” she said in an interview before the summit. “My hope is that they will leave with a new of level of awareness that they do have a role. Everyone has a role.”
Taylor gave the audience some steps to take to implement diversity, equity and inclusion — and also some ideas to reenergize initiatives.
Her talk as well as the panel discussion focused on four As: Acknowledging, Authenticity, Accountability and Action.
“The first A — acknowledging — the fact that we do have inequities, recognizing that we do have systemic barriers for recruiting, retaining and advancing talent of color,” Taylor said. “Acknowledging that organizations have lots of work to do around policies, strategies and practices of how they can make their organizations more inclusive.”
The second A focuses on Authenticity. Since last year in the wake of George Floyd’s police-related death, there has been a growing call for social justice. Many organizations have issued statements regarding systemic racism and the need to be more inclusive. Taylor notes these organizations can’t just check a box by doing one training a year or saying they believe in the movement while they exhibit different beliefs.
Accountability is the third A which looks at the responsibility of an organization from the top on down on these issues. Whether you want to be an ally, a mentor, sponsor or know changes need to be made, Taylor notes, “everyone in the organization is accountable for advancing this work and that it is not just a once a year training or that it is just a phase that is going to go away. We need to be accountable and holding each other accountable at all different levels.”
The final A is action by putting in the work both internally and externally including investing in community initiatives.
The event also included a panel discussion with four local business leaders sharing their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and experiences. The panelist were Jennifer Jimenez Maraña, director of diversity and inclusion at Broadmead, Inc.; Melody McCrea, relationship manager minority and women owned business banking at M & T Bank; Dana P. Moore, chief equity officer Baltimore City Office of Equity and Civil Rights; and Floyd E. Taliaferro IV, CEO at All Walks of Life.
Maryland Daily Record editor Thomas Baden Jr. served as moderator. He asked each panelist how their organizations are navigating and acknowledging local and national social unrest. McCrea noted that M & T Bank has put out statements decrying racism both internally and externally but recognized there is an overall society issue and is taking steps to solve the problem.
“What we’ve done differently now is we are not starting with solutioning,” McCrea said. “We are starting with an acknowledgement — here is the problem and here is what we are going to do.”
The company has started conversations at every level speaking about social unrest and asking how staff are feeling. “Historically, in financial services, there may have not been a place for that but now we are making sure that we are creating spaces for people to share, to acknowledge what is going on and for us to listen and do something about it.”
Taliaferro, who runs a behavioral health organization, said racial injustice and health disparities among people of color are not a recent phenomenon. “These issues have long plagued communities of color especially when we talk about those of low social, economic backgrounds,” he said.
His company, All Walks of Life, is not a stranger to navigating injustices and disparities. “Now knowing these injustices and disparities exist, we have created our treatment philosophy here which we call ‘Village-Centered Treatment’ and that name is a play on the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ We utilize this approach when we work with our staff and our clients. The core of it is aimed at strengthening relationships which ultimately aid and provide an education, empowerment and support and sense of community for both our staff and our clients.”
Jimenez Maraña is one of two full-time staff who were hired to champion diversity at Broadmead, Inc. which is a continuing care retirement community in Cockeysville. The senior living industry is one that has not addressed these issues traditionally.
She notes that acknowledgement of the issues, by companies, organizations or even individuals, are huge. She shared an email from a resident who sent her thoughts to over 500 other residents after the March 16 spa shootings in Atlanta.
Part of the email said, ‘The murderous attacks in Atlanta and reading in the newspaper about the increase in anti-Asian attacks around the country made me realize how little I have been aware of this particular form of racial prejudice. I am not sure about what to do about it but I hope you will join me in fighting against this pernicious bigotry where ever and however we can.’
Jimenez Maraña notes she shared part of the contents because the statement “is a small thing that went so far in terms of acknowledgement. …So don’t underestimate the ways in which all of us contribute to acknowledging what is happening in the world.”