Recap: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a Professional Workplace

Posted on 3/4/21 11:23 AM

Did you miss last week’s panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a Professional Workplace? You can catch the main session above and grab a few nuggets from each breakout session below.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a Professional Workplace panel was sponsored by University Advancement and the Social Equity and Title IX Office.

Debra Evans-Smith ’81

Debra Evans-Smith is a retired deputy assistant director with the FBI who also served in its Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She is now cochair of the IUP Black Alumni Experience Committee and a member of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

Why diversity is so important for a law enforcement agency:

“If you can’t develop sources, you will fail as a law enforcement officer. So, you have to be able to relate to people and build trust.

“A monstrous void of trust exists between law enforcement and the Black community. And although diversity isn’t by any means the full answer to this issue, evidence suggests that diversity can have a positive influence on law enforcement agencies.”

On getting out of your comfort zone:

“Whether you go into law enforcement or another profession, you will likely deal with people who are not like you. It may be your coworker, your boss, or the CEO of the company.

“The US is getting more diverse every day. And if you are one of those people who has only interacted with people who are like you, I strongly encourage you to move beyond your comfort zone.”

Why it’s important for Black people to pursue careers in law enforcement:

“I know you want to see change and don’t like the way you are treated. The way you can change that is get in there and make change from the inside. That’s what I did in the FBI.”

Advice for women who want to move up the leadership ladder:

“You have to fight and advocate for yourself. And you have to look for things that are going to advance you.”

Want more? Read this Q&A with Debra Evans-Smith.

James Taylor

James Taylor is both chief diversity and inclusion officer and chief talent management officer at UPMC, one of the nation’s largest and most successful integrated healthcare delivery and finance systems.

One questioner asked Dr. Taylor about the national trend of Black Americans dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than White Americans. Dr. Taylor noted that Pittsburgh is not following this trend: more Black residents are getting COVID-19 but, compared to the national average, far fewer are seriously ill and hospitalized or dying. UPMC has played an important role in this outcome, both as the largest healthcare provider and the largest employer in the region.

UPMC has also been addressing inequities in the vaccine rollout. Vaccines are frequently distributed at grocery stores, pharmacies, and stadiums that are not accessible to economically disadvantaged communities. The vaccine rollout in Pittsburgh includes more accessible sites: churches, community centers, and so forth.

Another question was how to increase diversity and retention at institutions like IUP, for both employees and students. For employees, Taylor recommended investigating both regional and national talent pools—diverse talent is out there if you look for it. Hiring should involve peer interviews.

To retain students, Taylor emphasized the need to listen to students and their experiences without judgment. Connect students with leadership, and make sure that the student experience lines up with what students were promised.

Finally, Taylor was asked what should students know in order to succeed as employees of large organizations like UPMC. He emphasized that technical skills are still critical for success, especially in healthcare. But students should also be culturally competent. Building cultural competency requires getting students to move out of their comfort zone—asking them to attend functions or meet people who they normally would not interact with.

Mauro Wolfe ’90

Born in Panama, Mauro Wolfe came to IUP in the late ’80s from Beaver County. Now a senior partner at Duane Morris in New York City, he represents clients in white-collar matters all over the world.

On why it’s important to develop relationships outside of Zoom:

“If you’re conscious of the need to develop in-person relationships, you’ll be ahead of your peers. It’s a faster way to develop real, personal connections and relationships with people. This is what’s needed to develop a powerful mentoring relationship, a powerful network of allies to help you do your business, and to cultivate very strong, long-term, lifelong relationships.”

The soft skills needed to succeed in a professional environment:

“The soft skills I would teach are strategy. Learn to play poker. Play poker and learn to play it well. Learn to play chess.”

“… life in the work environment is a game. And it’s a game like Monopoly or any other game that you play. You can’t play that game well if you don’t know the rules. The first order of business is to learn the rules.”

What did he learn at IUP that has really helped him succeed? By studying psychology, business management, and leadership he learned how to be a leader and how to be a follower.

“Those are the kinds of classes I would tell students [to take]. You should take any class you can take on leadership and anything studying leadership and psychology. In particular, industrial psychology, group dynamics, and group thinking.”

About the IUP alumni network:

“I just think there are so many opportunities for students to develop really powerful networks and mentors through the alumni program. And there’s a whole crew of us—not just me, but a whole bunch of us in New York—who want to be part of that. To start educating the students about how they can go from Indiana, Pennsylvania to New York City, for example. And if we could do it, anybody could do it.”

How should students approach a potential mentor? Mauro’s advice was not to walk up and ask someone to be your mentor. Mentoring relationships grow over time, and the best way to start is to ask: “I know you’re busy, but do you have a minute? I just have a quick question for you.”

Want more? Read this Q&A with Mauro Wolfe.