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8th Annual Inclusion Conference at LaCentre

On Wednesday, August 17th, we attended the 8th Annual Inclusion Conference, put on by the Commission on Economic Inclusion a program of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, that took place at LaCentre on Detroit Road in Westlake.

In the Commission's 2015-2016 Annual Report it was written that "in a diverse environment such as Northeast Ohio, economic growth cannot be sustained without including its diverse IMG_3725workforce and utilizing its minority businesses. The Commission works to increase board, senior management, workforce and supplier diversity among all industries and sectors with the goal of ensuring that minority businesses and minority individuals have the opportunity to participate in the economic prosperity of Northeast Ohio."

On this occasion, Ms. Charlene Jackson, Program Coordinator of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, put together a program that was heavily packed with valuable information. It ran from 8am in the morning until 4:30pm in the afternoon and at the end of the day we felt like we had just walked out of a very powerful but very rewarding movie.

Taking a cue from our last observation, let us say that the "cast" for the occasion consisted of two stunning keynote speakers who were Professor Mahzarin Banaji, a Social Psychologist from Harvard University, and Ms. Diana Cruz Solash, Director, EY Global Diversity and Inclusiveness. In addition, there were two workshops, in supporting roles, where we got to brainstorm about how to deal with issues regarding diversity and inclusive that workers and managers have to deal with daily. The first workshop was titled, "Implicit Bias in Talent Decisions" coordinated by Ms. Gina Camiola, Manager, Talent Programs at Eaton and Ms. Donna Skurzak, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Cleveland Clinic. The second workshop was titled "Mitigating Unconscious Bias: Effective Training and Practices" IMG_3734coordinated by Mr. George Sample, Senior Human Resource Manager, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and Ms. Erica Merritt, Director of Culture and Strategy from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

If there was one theme that tied all of this together it was "unconscious bias" which was defined on a slide that was displayed during the course of the day as "attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime, begin at a very early age-upbringing, culture exposure to media and include direct and indirect messaging."

A message on another slide contended that "unconscious bias is human; we make snap judgements each time we meet someone new; our workplaces are increasingly multicultural and we need to build our capacity at working across differences; and intentional repeatable steps are required to minimize the effect of bias in key processes."

In her keynote, Ms. Cruz Solash talked about the value of inclusiveness which was defined as "leveraging differences to activate better business results; creating an environment where all people feel and are valued." She talked about her company's progressive policies in terms of parental leave, standards for evaluating performance, and criteria for leadership which take inclusiveness very much into consideration. For example, both men and women get the same time allotment for parental leave because it would be stereotyping and sexist to say that only women can be caregivers.

Professor Banaji talked a little about her own background; she came here from India in 1980 for the purpose of furthering her education. At the time she had less than 100 dollars and knew no one here. She is a firm believer in the need to be aware of our own unconscious bias and using our consciousness to deal with them. She also said that one of the most damaging things about our biases is that they prevent us from IMG_3753helping others realize their potential. She shared with us the fact that 20 years ago she had a life altering experience that made her confront her own biases so now she sees it as her role to guide people towards awareness in a gentle fashion. Along these lines, the audience had a good time playing a game with her that showed just how biased we all were towards the CAVS when matched up against the Warriors. It was a speed game where we had to reply quickly and when it was over we realized that we had attached a lot of negative terms to the Warriors even though they had done nothing wrong; they were only our opponents.

On a more poignant note, she showed a slide of Asians and Caucasians in the same frame and discussed a study in which the respondents said that they regarded the Caucasians as being the true Americans more than the Asians. In reality, the Asians in the photo came from families who immigrated to the U.S. many generations ago whereas the Caucasians were newly arrived European immigrants.

We learned a lot from Professor Banaji and look forward to reading the book that she wrote in 2013 with her collaborator, Professor Anthony Greenwald, titled "Blind Spot."

During lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Richard Anders, a journalist from "The Real Deal Press" who we talked to the previous week at the program on immigration at the Maltz Museum. Our friend Ms. Michelle Tomallo from Plexus tabled at the conference and we talked with several people who knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong like Ms. Mimi Kuehn who appreciates Ms. Wong's support of MotivAsians and Mr. Richik Sarkar, a fellow attorney who is an old friend of Ms. Wong's.

Also there on this day was Mr. Ed Boyte from the Cleveland Clinic Akron General who used to work for our Mr. George Hwang at the Pearl of the Orient in Rocky River.

The last but by no means the least person that we want to mention is Reverend Stanley R. Miller, Sr., Pastor of Rust United Methodist Church. Rev. Miller used to be executive director of the Cleveland NAACP and once worked with our Ms. Sara Elaqad when she interned there. Based on his experience working with Ms. Elaqad, Rev. Miller predicted that she would have a fine future and from what we have seen his prediction is indeed correct.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC



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