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May 2, 2017

ATLeaders Presents Diversity Panel At Direct From The Source

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Last week, ATLeaders – the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s council of young business professionals – hosted their Direct from the Source event highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership and the workforce today.

Direct from the Source featured talks from three professionals in a range of fields. Derreck Kayongo, CEO of The Center for Civil and Human Rights; Susan Schmidlkofer, global director of diversity and inclusion at UPS; and Jennifer Warawa, executive vice president of product marketing with Sage, all presented their views on the topic before reconvening for a panel discussion open to audience questions.

Kayongo kicked off discussion with remarks on the value of observation. He explained that diversity starts on the inside by being open-minded to diversity of thought. This kind of outlook prepares us to understand different points of view.  

“When you hire someone who looks exactly like you, then you have failed,” Kayongo said.

Schmidlkofer spoke about the importance of employee resource groups to the workforce and the value they bring to the larger organization. ERGs allow employers to foster inclusive and diverse workplaces that align with the company’s mission and values – adding that successful companies mirror their clients.

“You really need a company, internally, that fits the society you serve,” Schmidlkofer said.

Warawa urged businesses not to forget about inclusion. For her, diversity is an empty goal if an organization is not “listening to its workforce.”

The speakers reconvened for an in-depth panel discussion, where they expanded on several of the afternoon’s themes. Kayongo and Warawa spoke of the unconscious biases we all hold and how they can be a detriment to moving toward true inclusion. The fact that they are unconscious means that companies need to pay attention and tread carefully when it comes to tackling social issues.

ATLeaders Council Leader and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Senior Director Fred Roselli spoke of feeling “humbled” after the event – from the passion displayed by the panelists and audience alike for the issue. The panel’s mission statement urging the value of growing a legacy account versus a bank account struck a chord with the crowd.

Kayongo summed up the sentiment when he said, “Nobody cares at the end of their life if you drove a Range Rover. Build legacy by helping people.”   

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