Diversity and Inclusion: An Employer Story

workplace diversity and inclusion meeting with coworkers

The following post was written by Deborah Williams, Director, Diversity and Inclusion at Bright Horizons.

Diversity and Inclusion... both important topics that seem to get increased attention in January and February as we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday and Black History Month.

As the diversity manager at Bright Horizons, I'm proud to say we take these observations and the associated subject matter seriously. One of the ways we do this is by infusing inclusion efforts into our annual January conference for child care center managers.

Inspiring Conversation

For the first time, we started this year's conference off with an inclusion activity. Through a series of questions related to ethnic and gender identity, we challenged people to be very candid with each other about perspectives on race and personal biases. We asked about stereotypes, discrimination, and moments when they might have felt discriminated against themselves.

The activity tested listening skills; it required people to really hear another person's perspective without interjecting their own thoughts/opinions. It was education for all of us. Not only did we learn something about the person who was speaking, but we were challenged to acknowledge our own personal biases.

Sharing Perspectives

On the second day of the conference, we orchestrated an inclusion reception. This event included information tables manned by members of each of our five Employee Advisory Groups (Men in Early Care and Education, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender, Asian/Pacific, Hispanic/Latino, and African Heritage). We also had a table with diversity materials for managers to browse through and take back with them.

The event included live violin music, food, drinks, and lots of networking as managers too the opportunity to meet other managers. Activities enabled managers to meet Advisory Group co-chairs, ask specific questions about the groups, and review some of the resource materials at each table.

The reception was a perfect segue to our dinner that evening, during which we recognized five individuals for their inclusion efforts.  Each of these individuals received the newly created, "Inclusion Achievement Award."  Based on the feedback we received, this will definitely be an annual recognition.

We ended the conference with a tour and dinner at the Musical Instrument Museum.  The museum displayed over 6,000 instruments, arranged by country/territory.  Each display provided historical data and headphones to listen to the music from that particular country.  Reflecting on our differences and similarities through music was a great way to end the conference. The special evening tied in nicely with the rest of the week's diversity efforts.

Celebrating in February, Observing Year Round

Weeks after these activities, I'm still receiving feedback from participants commenting on how they loved the opportunity to get to know others while at the same time examining their own thoughts and perspectives.

As I reflect back on this week, I'm thankful that I work for a company that not only recognizes diversity and inclusion efforts as the right thing to do, but more importantly, that understands these types of efforts allow employees to become more engaged.

In the field of HR, we know that increased employee engagement results in increased retention and productivity.  At Bright Horizons we live by the quote "Diversity is about counting people, and inclusion is about making people count." In this day and age, when the world is anything but homogenous, these programs are even more essential.

Well, I'm proud to say that we met our objective in the conference of connecting people, and making them feel included.  I look forward to further exploring the topic of diversity and inclusion on this blog in the future.