Keynoter: Inclusion Requires Dignity and Respect

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Oct 24, 2012
CHICAGO—“Inclusion begins with a core belief that everyone deserves dignity and respect,” said Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), in a keynote speech at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2012 Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition.

In her presentation on Oct. 23, 2012, she noted that most would agree that people deserve dignity and respect, but few can say honestly that they treat everyone with the same.

Castleberry-Singleton said she learned at college and at work how to interact effectively with people who were different from her, and that those experiences framed her views on diversity and inclusion. At Xerox, for example, she was asked to lead the group known as the Bay Area Black Employees of Xerox. Though she described herself as someone who tends to be very direct, she learned in that role how to “negotiate in a way that doesn’t shut executives down.”

Her first full-time diversity position at Sun Microsystems, however, got her hooked on diversity. “Once you put your foot into diversity you’re stuck—not stuck like glue but stuck because your heart gets into the work,” she told attendees.

While working for Motorola she realized that inclusion needs to be at the center of the diversity model and that diversity needs to be embedded into core business processes rather than “bolted on.”

“You can’t check the box and be done with it,” she explained, adding that “dignity and respect is the thing that enables inclusion.”

It was this realization that led Castleberry-Singleton to create the Dignity and Respect Campaign, an initiative that at first was only for employees at UPMC but now reaches across the country. The program includes a voluntary pledge and 30 tips to promote dignity and respect, such as:

  • Say hello.
  • Be flexible.
  • Find common ground.
  • Practice patience.
  • Get someone else’s point of view.

She said the list of 30 tips blossomed into seven competencies for which all UPMC employees are now held accountable. The competencies are:

  • Managing your behavior.
  • Innovation and collaboration.
  • Building cultural awareness.
  • Managing conflict.
  • Creating an inclusive workplace.
  • Community leadership.
  • Being a champion of dignity and respect.

Diversity & Inclusion: Central to Success

Earlier in the keynote session, SHRM’s Board Chair, Jose Berrios, president of Berrios Talent Group, observed that those who work in the diversity field “know that diversity and inclusion are no longer just nice things to have; they are central to business success in the 21st Century.”

He talked about baseball great Jackie Robinson, who was the first black vice president of a major corporation when he became vice president of personnel for Chock Full O’ Nuts.

Berrios commended the progress Major League Baseball has made since Jackie Robinson “broke the color barrier at the ballpark.”

However, he noted that “Too many businesses still act like baseball teams in the middle of the last century. They'll draft a few minority players but they won't welcome them into the front office nor harness their ideas and talents.

“Too often these days the discussion around diversity focuses on compliance,” Berrios explained. “But in today’s global marketplace, this is not about compliance; this is about our ability to compete.”

“The right diversity strategy can be the key to growth,” he said, adding that a diversity strategy “needs to be collaborative.”

“Diversity programs can no longer be designed in a vacuum, based on what feels good or feels right,” he explained. “Instead, they need to echo, amplify and make real the larger business goals.”

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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