Participants share ideas and best practices  

Sarika Bhakta, president of Nikeya Diversity Consulting and co-host of CBJ’s Diversity Straight Up podcast, moderated a Q&A audience engagement at the Diversity Inclusion & Impact Symposium held Aug. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Coralville Hotel & Conference Center.

She took questions from the audience and encouraged participants to share their insights and feedback.

“For this session I want us to be able to learn from each other,” she said. “Dialogue means that we can agree to disagree. As we engage in dialogue. I want us to be able to always be mindful of the intent.”

Here, in a lightly edited form, are a few topics that were discussed.

Q: How do you start a conversation with staff to make sure they’re feeling included?

A: Tyler Warner, Iowa City Area Association of Realtors:

Call a meeting and start from the top — am I including you, and then walk through what that means. How do you feel when we have these conversations? How is my presentation? How am I engaging you? Am I addressing things appropriately? And really put the onus not to put them in an awkward space, but saying, I’m trying to be vulnerable and grow as a leader, and I want you to help me get there. Just being honest and open in those dialogues.

A: Kenia Calderon Ceron, GreenState Credit Union

We are trying to learn about the feedback or how they feel about our organization, and I think the best way to do that is through an anonymous survey, I think especially if you have a growing population of people of color. It’s important to provide that space for them to be able to really share what’s on their mind and feel included in that way, and for staff to feel included, or to feel heard.

Q: What is your advice on how to champion diversity in recruiting? 

A: Sarika Bhakta, Nikeya Diversity Consulting:

The case is to really have a larger pool of candidates — create a wider net to get more qualified candidates. Assess where have you been traditionally recruiting and think of other places that you have not. At the end of the day, it is not about hiring unqualified candidates. It’s hiring qualified candidates, but part of your recruiting strategies is to cast a wider net and be intentional with your network and outreach that you conduct. If you keep on fishing in the same pond, you’re going to get the same fish. So, fish in an ocean of people.

A: Janet Godwin, ACT:

Within the last year we’ve set DE&I action plans for our recruiting, so we work and collaborate with our hiring managers in order to figure out what is going to make their team unique. What is going to add diversity to their team? In reality, it will add diversity to ACT as a whole. Maybe it’s an IT software position and adding a woman is going to make it diverse, or maybe it’s a sales position and their team is full of males, so they want to add a female, but they want to add a female of color. It comes down to what is your definition of diversity, because diversity means so many different things, it’s not just the color of our skin. We all have something that makes us diverse.

A: Iris Garcia, ACT:

A couple years ago, my manager actually increased the diversity of our small team by adding a white male, because our nine members were all females and some of us have color. Not as a recruiter, but as a person of color, and a first-generation college-goer, I have experienced recruiting at the high school level. A lot of kids in high school might not be thinking that they’re even going to go to college. At ACT, a lot of our job opportunities require college degrees. So, being seen at the high school level and encouraging and fostering underrepresented populations to consider a future job at ACT, even though it’s an investment, much later down the road. I think is probably an approach to consider to start encouraging kids to think of your place as an aspiration.

A: Terri Davis, Shuttleworth & Ingersoll:

Look at the processes themselves like the wording of your job descriptions, because sometimes those can be loaded masculine or feminine and you don’t even realize it. It can be the methods or processes that you use to publicize it, whether it’s just electronic and through social media versus traditional means, because we all know there’s segments of the population that only use their smartphone for all their business and there are segments of the population that don’t have a smartphone and use traditional methods. And then, your hiring team, your interviewers — make sure that you have diversity within that group, because we tend to be drawn towards people like us. If you diversify your hiring committee and group, then you’re more likely to attract and select a more diverse candidate pool.