Speaker preaches diversity in workplace to students

Author, trainer and mentor Alana Hill spoke on the importance of diversity in the workplace on Tuesday evening at Cashion. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Harry Rowe | Staff Writer

Author, trainer and mentor Alana Hill spoke on diversity in the workplace and how it fosters innovation and collaboration to Baylor students and the public on Tuesday afternoon. She wanted them to understand how to incorporate it into their future lines of work.

The talk was given as part of the Academy Speaker Series put on by the Center for Global Engagement, which “brings national and international speakers to campus to introduce students to the variety and complexity of leadership needs in contemporary society,” according to their webpage. The event was open to the public and had many students from leadership classes in attendance.

“For me, I think one of the things that stood out is her understanding of the difference between diversity and inclusion,” said Lamar Bryant, director for leadership education and development at Baylor. “I think a lot of times when we talk about this work those terms get used interchangeably, but they’re very different concepts — so I think understanding that part and being able to articulate that will hopefully help people understand the difference and the nuance between the two.”

Hill told students no matter where they end up after college, contributing to a culture of diversity is extremely important when focusing on innovation and team building.

“One of the beauties of diversity is we recognize that you’re beautifully different, but we come together united by a common vision,” Hill said. “Whether that vision is the Constitution of the United States, or whether that vision is the mission of your organization or whether that vision is just to make your community better.”

Hill compared diversity to a rainbow, saying the different shades are what makes it so beautiful.

“Each and every shade of the rainbow contributes something different to the beauty of the rainbow,” Hill said. “Yellow can’t tell orange that it’s prettier. Blue can’t tell green that it’s bolder. They’re all beautiful colors in their own right, and when they work together they form the beauty of the rainbow.”

Hill said inclusion and diversity foster innovation and collaboration. From churches attempting to recruit new believers to technology companies attempting to create the next big invention, differing perspectives are key in creating solutions. She discussed the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, a system that shows the different ways people resolve conflict. When assertiveness and cooperativeness are perfectly balanced, collaboration occurs.

“Collaboration and innovation work together in bringing us new ideas and bringing our organizations to the next level — taking our ministries to places they hadn’t gone before, reaching people they hadn’t reached before,” Hill said. “There is so much that we accomplish when we hear other voices, when we add in those perspectives and we get those points of view.”

Hill added that recruiting and retention are extremely important to start diversifying the room of opinions. She said in order to find diversity, people need to look in the right places. While many companies like Google have made great strides in consistently promoting diversity, Hill said there is still a long way to go. She said it starts with the top, and that is what makes it a leadership issue. She said positive work environment creates a sense of belonging and is the biggest motivator in keeping people at the job.

“When respect declines in an organization, so does the population because people will leave. People do not want to stay in what we call a toxic work environment, and one way to reduce toxicity is to create programs where people feel that they belong,” Hill said.

Hill concluded by sharing her experience with her Muslim brothers and sisters during Ramadan, a fasting holiday for the Islamic faith. Even though Hill, a strong believer in the gospel, did not participate in the fast, she was still able to be respectful and have her own takeaways from the event.

“They will have differing perspectives, they will have different values, they will have different ideas, and what they deserve is ultimately is your respect, but also your willingness to get the most out of them to leverage their strengths,” Hill said.