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HR Tampa’s Annual Diversity Summit

On behalf of the HR Tampa’s Diversity Committee, we would to express our thanks and appreciation to everyone involved in our recent Annual Diversity Committee Summit held at the Centre Club in the Westshore area of Tampa in November 2016.

As a quick follow-up, below please find the questions presented to the panel by attendees of the event and if you have any follow up questions, feel free to contact or the moderator/panel directly.

Carlos Tasso Aquino, PhD  -

Sophia Reed, MS, PHR -

Michele Hintson, JD -

Ashley Brundage -


1.      Can you address the issues of unconscious bias?


The Key is Education. This is the game changer; bias can’t be resolved without people being aware.

I do believe that unconscious bias is something that is becoming more important in the legal community for the purposes of examining the need for diverse hiring and retention practices in law firms.  I have seen striking data that examines the role that unconscious bias plays in making hiring and retention decisions.  The American Bar Association, Section of Litigation, has an Implicit Bias Test available for folks to test their attitudes and/or beliefs about certain topics, which you may find valuable. 

2.      Can you give an example for the “Thinking & Learning” category of Diversity & Inclusion?


Wyndham Vacation Ownership does a lot of work in relation to diversity of thought. For recruitment purposes, they make a proactive effort to find a slate of candidates that includes (1) an internal candidate who works in the same department as the opening; (2) an internal candidate who works in a different department as the opening; and (3) an external candidate. Wyndham has found that doing this has increased the diversity of thought, perspective, and experience within their organization.

3.      What’s one thing a small business, without a lot of resources, can do to encourage diversity in the workplace?


One thing that small businesses can do is partner with community organizations that promote diversity and inclusion efforts, especially via educational opportunities. Many community based non-profits provide many opportunities for organizations and individuals to become involved at little to no cost. Once a small business identifies its D&I needs, representatives can strategically select a community organization that best aligns with their D&I goals, thereby obtaining the biggest “bang for their buck."


4.      In your experience, what are the challenges faced by members of historically underrepresented groups in the workplace? What strategies have you used to address these challenges, and how successful were those strategies?


When it comes to racism, AT&T and PwC have both taken proactive measures to discuss and address this pressing issue. During their annual employee ERG Conference a few months ago, AT&T’s CEO gave a 10 minute speech, which people can find on YouTube. After sharing how one of his closest friends recently opened up to him about the various ways in which he has continuously experienced racism while growing up as a Black male in the United States, he made three key points: (1) He does not want AT&T employees to simply tolerate each other, because tolerance does not require work or effort; it requires silence; (2) Instead, he wants AT&T employees to try to understand each other, and this requires work and effort; and (3) In order to achieve this understanding and reach a common ground, AT&T employees are encouraged to engage in open conversations about these difficult topics. Another example is PwC, which launched its first “Color Brave” event internally last year following multiple police shootings as well as the Pulse tragedy. During these events, PwC employees engage in open dialogue about these difficult topics and concerns. In this way, PwC promotes the importance of having these difficult conversations; demonstrates that it is a safe space, and embraces D&I; acknowledges the issues taking place within our local communities rather than ignoring them; and shows that it cares about its employees. PwC holds these Color Brave events with external community members, too.

5.      When does “social justice” become discrimination against another group?


The very notion of “social justice” relies upon the premise that those in our community  share a common humanity and therefore for all to have a right to equal treatment—and when social justice exists as a matter of fact there can be no discrimination—in its perfect form.

6.      How can you instill the importance of diversity when your C-Suite is all white males?


I think you need to get the leader, the CEO, or the executive to be the organizations biggest cheerleader for D&I, have got to keep the messaging going 24/7.

You have to walk the walk, and take every opportunity to include those in the conversation that may not look like you or have your same background.

7.      How do you handle employees who may be uncomfortable with an employee who is going through transition based on fear or religious beliefs?


I think we have to educate them. We need to help them understand that the team member is not going to make them transition. They won’t catch being transgender or gay like a common cold. This is a huge problem, unfounded fears, create biases in the workplace. This issue can be swapped with many other things from race, religion, or gender or sexual orientation, not just being transgender. Not all religions believe the same thing, and most of them are built on love for one another. I think it is important to eliminate excuses for employees to have open fears of other employees, this is done though concise direction from leadership to support teammates and building a culture of inclusion. These companies that have fear from employees directed to other employees also need to work really hard to showcase the business reason for inclusion, showing these employees positive wins that results in more money for the company and the employees due to D&I will begin to change the culture. As it relates to the transgender specific example, I would add that people used to be fearful of women in the workplace and other races in the same office as well as gay people on their team. But once someone got to say they know someone who is from a diverse background, their fears have subsided and it gets easier for both the employee with the fear and the diverse person.

You may want to take a look at some governmental materials, such as the United States’ Office of Personnel Management’s website on its guidance regarding the employment of persons who are transitioning in the workplace, I have found some materials out in the public useful in educating me in this area.

8.      What happens, what do you do, if you create a sort of “rotational program for diversity champions” and you have an employee who refuses to participate, even if it becomes a required role responsibility of senior positions or upper level management?


 I think that you may have the wrong person in that role. Also I would consider in this case lowering the bar. Set a more attainable goal for your organization. We all need to have wins as they will create more awareness and help you get to this level of inclusion. So in short, build up to this as a best practice, use the education that is at your disposal now. Call me (ABrundage) anytime and I will come and meet with your leadership and discuss D&I and then setup a strategic plan that fits your organization.

I believe that it has to start with volunteerism and engagement of your employees.

9.      Are there any strands of diversity and inclusion that are easier to facilitate?  Why?


I think they are all the same in essence. The only difference between the layers is the education around the topic or the employee buy-in.


Bernie Currie, SHRM-CP, PHR

2016 Director of Diversity

2017 Workforce Readiness Director-Elect

Cell:  813-624-9681

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